Rather than searching the entire web with a search engine, you can use one of these portals to search through pre-selected and pre-evaluated websites. Usually the selector is an academic researcher or librarian, but not necessarily a medical or health specialist.
Search engines like Google search the entire text of a page, and can yield too many results if you don’t construct your search carefully. Some general tips for using either of these search engines: enclose phrases in “quotation marks”, put a ‘-‘ sign before words or phrases you’d like to exclude, and include more words to get more specific results.
You may use Google Scholar instead of Google to look for peer reviewed and other scholarly web content.
One concern when you use a search engine to find medical information on the Internet it quality: who is publishing the information and why should you believe them? You need to be the judge, but the more information you can glean from a site, the better you will be able to make a decision about the quality of the information. Some things to look for are:
The Medical Library Assocation has developed a nice set of questions that you may want to ask: A User's Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web.
MedlinePlus also lists excellent resources for Evaluating Health Information.
There is an organization that ‘certifies’ web sites that abide by a code of ethical behavior for presenting health information called Health on the Net (http://www.hon.ch/).
The HONcode is the code of conduct of the Health On the Net Foundation
and is applied for voluntary health/medical websites. It was initiated
in 1995 and has since grown to become the most widely used and best
trusted ethical code for health/medical websites. The HONcode is not an award system, nor does it intend
to rate the quality of the information provided by a Web site. It only
defines a set of rules to:
- hold Web site developers to basic ethical standards in the presentation of information;
- help make sure readers always know the source and the purpose of the data they are reading.
The site includes a keyword search of the HONSearch database, which will find any website that abides by the HONcode standards and has been evaluated by the organization.
The site also has a unique tool called the HonSelect database, which links together a variety of resources on a disease in a single search based on the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) category from the NIH. Search results are divided into: