Researching on the Internet - Part I

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • If you are living with or caring for someone with IBD, you know that most doctors only have 15 - 30 minutes to spend with you and family during your appointments. Physicians are usually under tremendous time pressure to get an update on your condition and figure out the next course of treatment. It's no surprise then that you may leave the doctors office feeling like you have more questions than answers. But is it safe to look for information about your condition on the internet? The answer is, it all depends. In this two part SharePost, I'll share with you a few of the advantages and limitations of using some of the more popular internet sites.

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    Medical information, like any information, always depends on the source. It's NEVER enough to just put in search words in a search engine such as google or yahoo and then believe what ever shows up. When you do research on your computer, especially related to your health, you ALWAYS have to "pull back the curtain" to find out who or what is behind the source of the information. For example...

     

    Wikipedia.com: This free, on-line encyclopedia is often the place where many start their search for more information about their condition. There are great advantages to this site. Wikipedia covers almost any topic imaginable, it is usually simple to understand, and it is free to anyone. However, Wikipedia should only be used as a starting place to understand some of the terms that may be used in relation to your medical condition. The disadvantage of the site is this. ANYONE... let me repeat this.... ANYONE can modify any of the pages in Wikipedia at any time. This is both the beauty and the danger of the site. So by all means use Wikipedia as a starting place, but if you find something interesting, take it to the next level. Such as...

     

    Google.com: There are several very powerful search engines available for free on the internet. I'll use Google as an example. If you find something which interests you on Wikipedia, then you can go to Google to find out more. For example, you may have seen on Wikipedia that drinking alcohol may make your symptoms worse if you are living with IBD. If you search Google for alcohol and IBD, the advantage is that you will most likely find thousands of "hits" and multitudes of information on the subject. The problem again, is that some of the information will be valid, and some of the information will be completely false. Google attempts to find EVERYTHING! So, if you want to narrow your search down further, you may want to take it to a place where most of the content on the site has been reviewed by someone with knowledge about the topic. Such as...

     

    GoogleScholar.com: Google Scholar is a site that provides a simple way to search for scholarly literature. The advantage of this site is that you will mostly find articles about the topic which have been reviewed by individuals familiar with the content of the articles, and these folks have agreed that the content should have been published in the first place. The disadvantage is that again, not all you find on this site will be accurate. Many of the articles will be outdated, and some of the published material about your condition will only be the opinion of a few researchers, maybe only using a few subjects to make their claims on your condition.

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    In Part II of this SharePost I will help you find the most accurate information you can on the internet in the least amount of time.

Published On: October 15, 2008