MEpedia:Science guidelines

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Thank you so much for deciding to contribute to MEpedia, and for rolling up your sleeves to work on the science! Let's dive right in.

Guidelines for writing in MEpedia


The basic goals of an MEpedia science article are to:

  • Inform the reader of the basics
  • Provide resources via links and citations so the reader can learn more

Start with a one-paragraph summary

At the start of every article on MEpedia, there should be a plain-language summary of the content below. Sometimes, it is easier to write the summary last; you will have a much clearer conception of the main idea once the rest of your writing is done. The summary should appear above any sections you create, making it show up above the table of contents.


You can find MEpedia article outlines for potential treatments, medical hypotheses, and body systems, e.g.. Just copy the outline (Ctrl-C) and paste it (Ctrl-V) into the article to have a template you can use.

A note on ME v. CFS

We have separate pages for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, ME/CFS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well as SEID. The convention is that the terminology used in an ME-pedia article should match the terminology used in the underlying source. Where there is a tension between the term used in the source and the definition (e.g., ME defined by the Oxford criteria or ME/CFS defined by the Canadian Consensus Criteria), it may be useful for clarity to mention the definition used.

Guidelines for writing science in MEpedia

Just the facts

Science writing should be about what we know to be true, so far as our current understanding of science can tell us.

It's important to omit descriptive words that encourage the reader to think in a certain way, such as adjectives and adverbs. For example, "intriguingly", "disastrously", and other adverbs inform the reader what they ought to think about the next piece of information. The facts must speak for themselves.

Aim as close to the objective truth as possible.

Avoid the omission of credible sources with which you may disagree.

Less is more

The goal of an MEpedia page is to inform the reader of the basics and link out to resources that will provide a more thorough grounding in the topic. To best serve our community in the long run, that may mean reading a long article and typing one sentence (or even one phrase!) into MEpedia.

If you aren't certain how to interpret a study or summarize it, you may be able to find more information if you look on Phoenix Rising or Science for ME and search for the study's title in quotes. Often there will be a thread with detailed discussions of the study's implications. You may also check out the MEpedia Project Facebook group and chat about the study there.

Do your best to avoid cutting and pasting, or paraphrasing blocks of information. Find the simplest way to convey the information so that brain-fogged readers can understand.

No advice

Do not give advice or offer recommendations. If a particular professional or patient group gives advice, for example in dose of a potential treatment, make it clear who is advising this.

Use equivocal language

Recognize that scientific fact changes by using equivocal language: "it may be that..." "it is possible that..." are good examples. Avoid language like "it has been proved" or "we now know".


Even if you are certain it is true, if you can't cite it, you can't say it. And unless it's common knowledge, be sure to cite everything you say, whether you're quoting the source or paraphrasing information from it.[1]

Use the following only with caution and caveats:

  • Unreferenced articles
  • Layman's blog posts

Suggested Sources

See '''What counts as an academic source''' (Monash University)

General topics (tertiary sources)

ME/CFS High Quality sources (secondary sources)

Searching for sources

Suggested image sources

Tertiary/secondary vs primary sources

If you have worked on medical pages on Wikipedia before, you may be aware that they encourage the use of reference books (tertiary sources), and review articles (secondary sources). There are few review articles on ME/CFS, so it is acceptable to cite primary sources, so long as you use the equivocal language described above.

Important studies and the age of works

The goal in scientific writing is to represent the most up-to-date information. For that reason, in biomedical research it's important to make the attempt to find primary and secondary sources that were published in the past several years.

An exception to this general guideline are particularly influential studies called seminal works. These notable studies are publications that changes the way the field thinks about a topic. Did your source define something new or introduce a novel idea? If so, it may be a seminal work.

A second exception are works that focus on history or discuss a sequence of events as an important aspect of the narrative.

A good example in ME might be the Fukuda criteria (1994) that presented a working definition for 'CFS'. Because it defines something new, it makes sense to cite it even in a modern paper, or in an article that discusses the history of ME. The notable studies category lists these key studies.

Remember Wikipedia is not a reliable source

According to Wikipedia itself, Wikipedia is not a reliable source.[2]

Instead of referencing Wikipedia, check claims on Wikipedia to see if they are verified by a reliable source. If they are, add the information citing that source instead.

Types of studies

In vivo or in vitro studies

Studies on humans or animals are in vivo studies, studies on tissue, cells, etc are in vitro studies. Human studies carry the most weight.

Clinical trial phases

Clinical trials that have been classified by the FDA are given a phase number. Phase 3 and Phase 4 clinical trials are required for a drug to be approved for a particular use, so these trials carry the most scientific weight.

Randomized controlled trials

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are often regarded as a "good standard" in research; they involve patients being allocated randomly to a group and the use of a similar control group. Blinded RCTs mean the patients don't know what treatment they are getting - it may be dummy pills. In unblinded RCTs patients know the treatment they are getting, so the risk of a placebo effect is higher. In double-blinded trials, neither the patient nor the investigator knows the treatment being provided, so both the risk of a placebo effect and the risk of investigator bias are reduced. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are considered the most authoritative.

Subjective outcomes are a matter of the doctor's or patient's opinion, and may involve the use of questionnaires. These are less reliable than objective outcomes which include measured data such as heart rate, step count, or monitoring a certain value in bloodwork.

See also


  1. Allen, Timothy T. (2000). "Citing References in Scientific Research Papers". Retrieved May 21, 2018. You should acknowledge a source any time (and every time) you use a fact or an idea that you obtained from that source. Thus, clearly, you need to cite sources for all direct quotations. But you also need to cite sources from which you paraphrase or summarize facts or ideas -- whether you've put the fact or idea into your own words or not... [emphasis added] 
  2. "Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a reliable source". Wikipedia. Dec 6, 2018. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone at any time. This means that any information it contains at any particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or just plain wrong...There are many errors that remain unnoticed for days, weeks, months, or even years. Therefore, Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive source in and of itself. 

Myalgic encephalomyelitis or M.E. has different diagnostic criteria to chronic fatigue syndrome; neurological symptoms are required but fatigue is an optional symptom.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Randomized controlled trial. Participants are randomly assigned to two or more groups, with one group receiving the treatment and a control or comparison group receiving a different treatment or placebo. (A glossary of EBM terms, BMJ).

"Bias in research is "a systematic deviation of an observation from the true clinical state" (Sackett et al., 1986).[1]