Purpose: We examined the terminology used to describe populations in genetic research to understand how and when terminology is being used, changed, and framed.
Methods: We compiled 36 complete article sets, which included newspaper articles and corresponding press releases and journal articles. Population terminology was traced from peer-review article, to press release, to newspaper article to determine changes in language and frequency. A qualitative analysis was then conducted on a smaller sample of the article sets to shed further light on the use and source of population terminology in this context.
Results: Results indicated a wide variation in the frequency and terminology of population descriptor language used by genetic researchers and the media. The qualitative textual analysis highlighted differences in the use and the framing of population terminology between scientific literature and media representations.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates how difficult it can be to control terminology use, even within the reporting of a specific study. Further work needs to be done in this area with a focus on accuracy in defining research terms and research populations in both the scientific literature and the media representations of genetic research.