Researching on the Internet - Part II
In Part I of this SharePost, I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of some of the popular websites commonly used by families to investigate medical conditions. In Part II, I am providing you with the path I take on the internet to investigate an issue. As a PhD Candidate, a researcher, and mother of two, efficiency and accuracy are always behind my choices of websites.
When I begin to research an issue, I almost always start with Google.com. I don't usually open the files or "hits" that come up, but instead, I look for the range of information which is available on the topic, and try to narrow my search by quickly familiarizing myself with the terms professionals use in relation to the topic. From Google.com, I next search on GoogleScholar.com. Again, I mostly look at the range of information available on the topic, especially anything published since the year 2000. If there is any information published on the topic in the last five years or so, I open these files and at least read the abstract. The abstract lets me know what the researchers based their findings on. I specifically look to see if their research design supports their claims. I also look at the authors of the papers and make sure that there is overall support across several communities for what is being suggested. In other words, there could be five papers written about how mothers of children with chronic diseases tend to overreact to their children's condition. My guess is that a claim such as this one would only come from one institution, and would not be supported across the country by other institutions.
The next place I visit is the HealthCentral Network. A reputable, online medical website such as this one is not only targeted, but it is also current on the latest information. The website contributors are almost always living with or caring for individuals with the condition, which can be a very different viewpoint from most university researchers. Sometimes, nothing beats a real-world perspective. If I am using the HealthCentral Network for my own professional research, then I start at the home page, and put what I am interested in into the "search our sites" box. For personal help, I usually visit the IBD or Acid Reflux pages, and open anything related to diet, or menu ideas (food is always a challenge in my house)!
If I still need more information about a topic after visiting the HealthCentral Network then I go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH.gov) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov). Both sites sometimes show what future research will be funded on the topic of interest.