This workbook accompanies the PowerPoint presentation intended to introduce you to Internet searching concepts. The workbook will guide you through exercises while connected to the Internet.
Table of Contents:
Internet Gateways and Databases
Internet Search Engines
Searching Techniques and Strategies
2. Searching the Internet
The Internet contains a vast amount of information covering a wide variety of topics. It hosts library catalogues, articles, news items, reports and grey literature, multimedia, reference information, company information and personal opinions. The information is created from many different sources including academic institutions, government agencies and NGOs, professional organisations, commercial information and individuals.
The primary methods for locating the right information on the Internet are subject-based information gateways, search engines and site-specific search tools (e.g. within bibliographic databases).
Defined as a node or network that serves as an entrance to another network, gateways organize information in a structured way often in subject categories. For health-related information, there are many useful gateways including the WHO A-Z health topics list (http://www.who.int/topics/en/) and AED/SATELLIFE’s annotated, subject-based gateway to health resources for developing countries (http://www.healthnet.org/essential-links/)
4. Search engines
A search engine is a program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns a list of documents where the keywords were found. On the WWW, the search engine utilizes automated robots to gather information and automatically index sites. Any words found on the web pages visited by the search engine are stored in the search engine database. When you search the web for a topic, the key words are matched to the information found on the web pages visited by the search engine.
Examples of search engines are
Google ( http://www.google.com )
Yahoo ( http://www.yahoo.com/ )
The more focused Google Scholar
( http://scholar.google.com/ )
A database is a collection of information organized in such a way that a computer
program can quickly select desired pieces of data. It is an electronic filing system. Traditional databases are organized by fields, records and files. A field is a single piece of information; a record is one complete set of fields; and a file is a collection of records. For example, a telephone book is analogous to a file.
The Internet contains numerous hypertext databases, where any object whether it be a piece of text, a picture, or a film, can be linked to any other object. The premier biomedical database is PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) a free search tool to over 23 million citations. It is a service of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine, U.S. The use of this database is essential for searching full text journal articles in HINARI and will be discussed at length in subsequent modules.
Connect to the Internet and open your internet browser.
Type in (or copy/paste) the url of PubMed - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ (or Search PubMed in Google and click on site) Click on “GO” or hit the Return key. Search the following keyword subject in the PubMed Search box: HIV AND developing countries
How many citations did you get?
What words could you use to ‘narrow’ this search?
What type of material is indexed in this database?
Note: Several other modules emphasize how to search/use this extensive biomedical database.
6. Search techniques
Before initiating a search on the WWW, you should plan your search strategy. This process clarifies your thinking about your topic and helps you ensure that you are looking for information appropriate to your task. The following recommended process can be applied to any searching situation, electronic or otherwise:
Define your information need:
What sort of information are you looking for?
Is it for specific information? - From a data book, encyclopaedia, dictionary or textbook
Is it general information within a subject area?
Does the search require more thought and information?
Who is going to use the information?
Is it for a clinician, researcher, student or a member of the public?
Choose your search terms:
What are the key phrases and/or unique words that might appear in a website or article?
What broader topic is the search part of or related to?
Decide which sources to use:
What sources are appropriate? This can range from organizations’ websites and news articles to subject gateways and databases, journals, reference resources, e-books or reports and grey literature.
Review and revise your search:
Be prepared to review and revise your search scope and strategy – by using other sources of information or other search terms or different combinations of terms or by using a different type of search
Try new sources of information (familiarity is sometimes too easy)
Start again near the beginning of this process if you need to
Common problems with an initial search are that you are finding too many, or too few, or not enough relevant references, the references you find may not be available electronically or may be in a language that you cannot understand, or may be at a too advanced (or basic!) level for your needs. For future use or citation, ensure you that you keep an accurate record of your search and the results.
7. Basic (Boolean Logic) searching
You can search the WWW using simple search interfaces which use keyword combinations or more advanced features. Each search engine may have slightly different features so it is always a good idea to check which are appropriate to the one you are using.
Many search engines allow for full Boolean logic or ‘true/false’ searching using the AND, OR, NOT operators.
The AND operator can be used to combine two concepts, to find items containing all your search terms, or to narrow the search down and make it more specific. In this example, the AND operator used to combine two concepts e.g. hip AND fracture – in the shaded area.
In this example below, the AND operator is used to combine three concepts e.g. hip AND fracture AND elderly – in the shaded area.
The OR operator can be used to keep the search broad and find information containing one or other of your terms e.g. renal OR kidney – in the shaded area with the overlap in the middle having both search terms.
If you only want to find items containing one term and not the other term, use NOT to exclude these items e.g. pig NOT guinea – in the shaded area.
Relevance ranking is a grading that gives extra weight to a document when the search terms appear in the headline or are capitalized. Every found document is calculated as 100% multiply by the angle formed by weights vector for request and weights vector for document found
8. Advanced searching
The following advanced techniques may be used:
Truncation/wild cards- a symbol such as * or $ is inserted to find all alternative endings of a word e.g. child* finds child, children, childhood etc. This can broaden the search. It also can be used for alternate spelling such as analy*e for analyze and analyse.
Proximity searching- it may be possible to use NEXT or NEARor parentheses e.g. (malaria parasite) to increase the specificity of your search.
Some search engines are case sensitive and will only find items spelled exactly as you type them e.g. if you use uppercase any items in lower case spelling may be ignored. Many search engines ignore common words such as: if, an or the.
The text in this section uses material developed by INASP for the ‘Search Engines and Effective Searching on the Web’ presentation. All INASP training materials, unless explicitly stated otherwise, are copyright INASP (International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications) and are freely available for use in educational settings.
8.1 Field searching
It is possible to search in specific fields such as looking for a title, date or URL in some search engines. Both ‘advanced’ and ‘field’ searching will be discussed in the PubMed searching modules.
9.Evaluating information found on the Internet or World Wide Web
While it is possible to retrieve useful information from searching the Internet, users need to remember that anyone can write information and publish web pages.
All information should be evaluated using criteria such as:
Exercise 2 Search Techniques
Go to Google (http://www.google.com) on the Internet
In the Search box, enter the keyword search terms Avian Flu
There are six criteria for evaluating health related websites: Accuracy, Authority, Currency, Coverage, Objectivity and Design/Navigation. Note – this is your opinion of the website and you must decide how to rank it using the six categories. What do you think of the website using these criteria?
On a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent),evaluate WHO’s Bulletin:
(a total of 25 or above is excellent, 20-24 good, etc.)
Choose a health related website of interest to you or the Research4Life website - www.research4life.org/ - Open the website.
Evaluate this website using the same 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) scale:
Will these criteria be useful to you for evaluating health-related websites? What other criteria would you add?
A useful link to evaluating health information can be found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/evaluatinghealthinformation.html Many health sites explain the criteria used for including material within the website.
You have finished HINARI Basic Course Module 2 and completed 5 exercises. You have mastered Google and Google Scholar searching and how to evaluate Internet sites.
Updated 2017 11