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The Hits and Misses of Resources in Medicine and Health Sciences

While Google is a great tool for finding restaurants and for planning your vacation, you might think twice before you treat patients with information from Google. Here's a tip sheet that shows the pros and cons of different resources.

Resource Comparison

Resource Pros Cons
  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Free
  • Good for finding information on topics about which there may not be many other articles
  • No two searches produce the same results
  • Can't sort results by date to see newest pages first
  • Google algorithm is a secret -- we don't know how pages are ranked
  • Web page authors can manipulate Google algorithm so that their pages are ranked higher
  • Ads and sponsored pages show up in results
  • Results mix trustworthy and biased content
 

 
  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Free
  • Shows times cited, citing papers
  • Advanced options available for searching by subject, authors or journals
  • Good for finding articles about specific instruments or questionnaires
 
  • No way to know what journals and articles are included
  • Doesn't include articles without abstracts
  • May not include the newest articles from PubMed
  • Can't sort results by date
  • No way to search using subject headings, clinical queries, study type or other limits
 

 
  • Fast
  • Easy
  • Free
  • Good source for background information when you don't know anything about a topic
  • Covers the "long tail"
  • Becoming less biased: seeks more references, hot topics, works to verify author credentials
  • The ability for anyone to edit most topics means that errors can get corrected quickly
  • The author of an entry is not easily determined
  • Generally not well referenced
  • Not peer reviewed
  • Articles not stable: content can change on an hourly basis
  • Hard to tell if an entry is evidence-based
 

 

 
  • Free
  • Connects to the full-text of original research easily
  • Sophisticated tools for searching, i.e., automatic mapping to subject headings, limits, clinical queries, filter tabs
  • Customization features allow you to save searches and citations, set filters, etc.
  • Explicitly states what journals are included
  • Multiple ways to do things can make it easy to find a way that works for you
  • Requires training for most efficient and effective use
  • Platform can be a bit unstable sometimes
  • Multiple ways to do things can make it complicated to remember how to do things
 
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