The sheer size of the internet can make the prospect of having to search for reliable information very daunting. However there are several things to consider when searching the web for biomedical research which can make the task easier.
Try not to use Google!
Google is excellent at what is does. It searches across the whole of the internet and yields thousands, if not millions of results. It is this success, however, that leads to several problems when searching for medical literature.
- RELIABILITY - anyone could have created the content that you find.
- RELEVANCE – there is no specificity to your search so much of what you find will be irrelevant and/or out of date.
- INFORMATION OVERLOAD –you will undoubtedly find a lot more information than you need.
Clinicians and medical researchers constantly rely upon information which has a direct effect upon their patients, sometimes in life or death situations. This information therefore has to be completely accurate and up-to-date.
One way of accessing trustworthy medical information is to use the recommendations on our Useful websites pages.
How do you know if the information you have found is of the necessary quality?
Once you have your search results it is important to appraise the information that you find. Establishing the credibility and reliability of what you find on the web requires a little detective work:
1. Is the information credible?
Who is the author or the organisation responsible for the page?
Can the authors be relied upon to provide the information you need?
Bottom line: is this a reputable and authoritative source?
2. Is the information reliable?
Is it fact or personal opinion?
Is the argument balanced or is it biased?
Do the authors substantiate their claims with proper references to other sources?
Bottom line: think critically - is the page of sufficient quality for your needs?
The following recommended websites cover the evaluation of web pages in more detail:
MLA - guide to finding and evaluating information on the web
Medline Plus gives clear advice on how to recognise reliable online information and provides an online tutorial