Friday, April 26, 2013

Finding information on the Internet, Part 1

The Internet is full of information.

All you have to do is type a question into Google, (or even just start to type a question into Google and it will fill out the rest for you), and a plethora of answers will be returned to you in a matter of seconds. Then all you need to do is point and click, and viola! Right?


But how do you know that the answer you found is right?

Anyone can contribute information to the Internet. A high school student, a Walmart greeter, a post-doctoral researcher, but how do you know who's information you should trust. You might think, 'The post-doctoral researcher, of course!' But what if the information you're looking up is about employment practices at Walmart. Then, wouldn't the person working as a greeter be able to provide some valid information? Not to mention, maybe the post-doctoral researcher's specialty is in paleontology so even if they wrote about Walmart in a blog, discussion board, or on a Website, what makes their information more accurate? Is it even accurate?

As a librarian, I'm trained in finding information. As a librarian for a medical research group, my specialty is finding information related to healthcare. Normally, when I'm looking for information I'm searching for large quantities of journal articles, conference abstracts, reports, etc., that are relevant to a specific aspect of medicine, or healthcare. When I do this I have access to a large number of databases and electronic journals (the exact figure is surprisingly difficult to find), whereas the average Internet user doesn't.

Over the next couple of blog posts, I'm going to talk about finding and evaluating information on the Internet. I'm not sure how many posts this will take up, but I'll use my series on oral contraceptives and amenorrhea to help illustrate my points. Either way, I hope my faithful readers will find it helpful.


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