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Access Part I. Accessing Health Information Through the Internet. Access Overview. Part I: Introduction and Searching Part II: Population and Health Resources. Introduction. Basic terminology Why has the Internet become so important? What can you use the Internet to do?

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Access Part I

Accessing Health Information Through the Internet

Access Overview

  • Part I: Introduction and Searching

  • Part II: Population and Health Resources


  • Basic terminology

  • Why has the Internet become so important?

  • What can you use the Internet to do?

  • Common frustrations

  • Navigating websites

  • Credibility

Basic Terminology

  • Internet:complex system of computers and networks that are connected through a common electronic language and work together to share information

  • World Wide Web (www): graphical Internet service used to distribute information through text, images, and sounds

  • Electronic mail (e-mail): message sent from one computer to another via a network of computers

Basic Terminology (cont.)

  • Listserv:list of e-mail addresses for a group of people interested in the same subject

  • Portable document file (PDF): file that retains the layout of the original document

  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL): the Internet address of a particular website, for example:

  • Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): the computer language used to create web pages

Why has the Internet become so important?

  • Key communication tool

  • Easy to share information

  • Breaks down barriers of time and distance

  • Large amount of information is available to a greater amount of people

What can you use the Internet to do?

  • Send mail to colleagues around the world

  • Share documents, presentations, datasets

  • Join discussion groups

  • Receive news announcements

  • Request information

  • Research best practices

  • Read online journal and newspaper articles

  • Participate in online courses

Common Frustrations

  • Connections can be slow

  • Searching can be time consuming

  • Information overload

  • Services are expensive

  • Services are unavailable

  • Difficult to find information you need

  • Sites are not in local language

  • Not all information is available free of charge (journals)

What if you only have e-mail or browsing is too slow or expensive?

Websites can be received via email:

  • Text in the body of the email message

  • Website content in the body of the message


Navigating Websites

  • Going to specific websites directly

  • Using links to go to other pages

  • Using favorites (bookmarks)

  • Saving and printing web pages

  • Viewing pages offline

Navigating Websites (cont.)

Credibility of Online Information

  • Source: Author? Organization?

  • Message: Timeliness? Perspective? Related Literature? Accuracy?

  • Usability: Information easily accessible? Links?


  • Search directories and search engines

  • Plan a search strategy

  • Search techniques

Searching the Internet

  • Internet is a valuable resource for finding information

  • However, being able to find the information you want can be difficult and time consuming

  • Search directories and search engines can help locate and narrow information

Search Directories


Search Engines



Copernic Agent Basic

Search Tools

Plan a Search Strategy

  • Define topic in one sentence

  • Ask questions to clarify your topic

  • Identify similar search terms or synonyms for main keywords

  • Determine how you are going to find the information

Define topic in one sentence

Funding for best practices to control multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in East Asia

Ask questions to clarify your topic

Who: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Harvard Medical School, World Health Organization

What: tuberculosis, model DOTS, drug-susceptible TB, grant

Where: China, Vietnam

How: DOTS-Plus



Multidrug-resistant TB

Drug susceptible TB



Best practices

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Harvard Medical School

World Health Organization


Model DOTS

DOTS- Plus



Identify similar search terms or synonyms for main keywords

How are you going to find the information?

  • Search directory? Uses general categories and sub-categories for structured search with some knowledge of the topic

  • Search engine? Uses keywords and phrases requiring some knowledge of the topic

  • Specific database? May be a better choice for collecting data and statistics

Search Techniques

  • Wildcard matching

  • Phrase matching

  • Boolean searches

  • Inclusive/Exclusive operators

  • Filters

  • Site specific searches

Wildcard Matching

  • Attaching an asterisk * to the stem of a word conducts a search on variations of word

  • SEARCH: program* (for program, programs, programme, programmes, etc.)

  • Widens your search

    Recommended sites: AltaVista or Yahoo!

Phrase Matching

  • Narrow your search by including quotation marks “ ” around words to match words in exact sequence

  • SEARCH: “Asia-Pacific Population Journal” (name of journal)

  • SEARCH: “family planning”

    Recommended sites: AltaVista Advanced, Google, or Yahoo!

Boolean Searches


  • infant mortality

  • child mortality

  • infant mortality AND child mortality (narrows)

  • infant mortality NEAR child mortality (narrows)

  • Infant mortality AND NOT child mortality (narrows)

  • infant mortality OR child mortality (widens)

    Recommended site: AltaVista Advanced

Inclusive/Exclusive Operators

  • Including a plus sign (+) in front of a word requires that word to be in the search

  • Including a minus sign (-) in front of a word will prohibit that word from being in the search (similar AND NOT)

  • +maternal +health +programs +asia

  • +maternal +health +programs +asia

    -africa –europe (narrows)

    Recommended sites: AltaVista Main only, Google, or Yahoo!


  • Limit the type of sites a query will search

  • By date: restricting search to webpages updated since a certain date

  • By using host: all webpages from a particular host are found,

  • By using link: all webpages linked to a particular site are found,

    Recommended sites: AltaVista, AltaVista Advanced

Site Specific Searches

  • The techniques discussed are also useful when searching specific websites using their local search engine

  • If a site doesn’t have a local search engine, use Google Advanced. In the field Domain: choose only return results from the site or domain _________ and type in the URL for the site you want to search.


  • Pay attention to correct spelling

  • Include alternative spellings

  • Keep construction of searches simple

  • Limit the number of concepts in a search to three or four with a limit of six to eight


  • Navigating

  • Evaluating

  • Searching

    • Directories vs. Engines

    • Plan a Strategy

    • Techniques (Wildcard, Phrase, Boolean, Inclusive/Exclusive Operators, Filters)

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