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Finding what you need on the
World Wide Web
Informatics Training for
CDC Public Health Advisors
Organized lists of links
There are official organizations and agencies
associated with most public health issues
In many cases, these agencies have developed
well-organized, filtered sets of links to on-line
See, for example, the CDC Diabetes Home Page
Key: finding that first list of links…
Search engines
Both better and worse than library card
 Different engines, different results
 Results not necessarily ranked by relevance
 Better engines allow very complex
searches, can search newsgroups as well as
WWW--worth your while to explore
Caveats about Web searching
Much of what is useful and on-line is not
accessible via generic Web searches
 Real
databases require specific queries (e.g.,
MedLine, CDC WONDER, Hazdat)
 Some
database services require subscription
and fees (e.g., ToxNet, Nexis)
Much of what is useful and in print is not
available on-line at all (e.g., most full-text,
peer-reviewed articles)
Web searching caveats (cont’d)
World Wide Karaoke: everybody’s got a
very cheap printing press
Appearances can be deceptive
Tips for weighing your “catch”
Use common sense
 Use traditional means, e.g., from JAMA:
 Authorship (names, affiliations, credentials)
 Attribution (for all references and sources)
 Disclosure (of Web site ownership, sponsorship, etc.)
 Currency (date that content was posted, updated)
Use knowledge of URL anatomy
Beyond the web
Newsgroups are wild, chaotic, bizarre, but
sometimes the best source for intense,
timely debate
Automated mailing lists are often richer and
more focused, but can be time-consuming
Focused “news feeds” should become
possible soon, allowing automated,
customized information assembly
Web search strategy “pearls”
Whenever possible, use organized lists of pointers
assembled by authoritative organizations
Be aware of the strengths and limitations of search
engines; get to know one or two engines well
Caveat Lector et Viewer
Don’t forget databases, newsgroups, lists
Know when to quit, i.e., when to call for help
from a librarian or subject matter expert