Web Research Tools :
How to Research Medical and Psychological Topics on the Internet
Carol Watkins, MD
Northern County Psychiatric Associates
Use the Internet for
Medical and Psychiatric Research
The web can be a good source of
information about psychiatric conditions and other mental health issues.
Since it is so easy and inexpensive to put information up on the World
Wide Web, a wide variety of information is present. Often it is necessary
to carefully evaluate the source of the data. Both professionals and the
general public now have easy access to legitimate medical information as
well as inaccurate and misleading material. To make optimal use of the
World Wide Web, you need to be able to do your own information searches.
Don't think that you need to immediately master the kind of complex search
logic used by medical librarians. There are different types of web
searches with different levels of complexity. Some are more suited for
intuitive thinkers and other more analytical minds. In some cases, you can
combine two different basic search techniques in the course of a single
This may sound dry, but in practice it can be
exciting, fun and even amusing. One can fantasize about sitting in a
conference with a plugged in laptop, pulling up scads of relevant articles
and questioning the presenter about them. Some fantasies need to stay just
that. Don't actually do this or you will never get invited anywhere. Just
sit in back with your laptop and grin.
A good basic approach involves web
search engines such as Altavista
or Ask Jeeves which have the
capacity to do a "natural
language search." One simply enters a question such
as"What are the causes of schizophrenia?" The search engine
would then list sites with articles about the causes of schizophrenia. If
you then wanted to narrow the search to theories related to genetic causes
of schizophrenia, many search engines then allow you to press a
"refine" or "narrow search" button. In this case, you
might want to enter "genetic" to narrow the search. I tend to
get to know the technique and general "feel" for one or two
general search sites. Google is also an excellent search site which offers
a variety of ways to formulate searches.
If you need more technical articles on
schizophrenia, or other medical/psychiatric topic from the medical or
educational literature, there are several major indexes to consider. The
National Library of Medicine, gives access to
free searches of the Index Medicus, a large number of internationally
known medical journals. ERIC is
a large index of educational journals. CEC
Eric Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education is devoted to
issues related to disabilities and gifted education.
Several web search
engines such as Google and Atlavista offer a translation system that
will translate a web site into your language. One can enter text for translation get a web site translated.
This can be useful if one accesses web sites or online journals in French,
Italian, Portuguese, German Spanish or other languages. It seemed to do a good job
when tested with some simple German translation, but one should probably
not make important medical decisions based on these translations alone.
Medline and some sections of Eric use Boolean
Search Operators. Basic information on Boolean
Search Operators would be enough for most searches. For
those who wish to do powerful or complex searches, the National Library of
Medicine has a page, Syntax
of Complex Boolean Expression which gives more detail for those
who wish to do advanced Boolean searches.
Postal address: We have two locations in Baltimore County
Monkton Office16829 York Road/PO Box 544/Monkton,
Lutherville Office: 2360 West Joppa Road Suite
223/ Lutherville, MD
Please use telephone for appointments or medical questions.
Carol Watkins, M.D.
Glenn Brynes, Ph.D., M.D.
Rita Preller, LCSW-C
Copyright © 2004 Northern County Psychiatric
December 11, 2004