Web Research Tools: How to Research Medical and Psychological Topics on the Internet

Use the Internet for

Medical and Psychiatric Research


  The web can be a good source of

information about psychiatric conditions and other mental health issues.

Since it is so easy and inexpensive to put information up on the World

Wide Web, a wide variety of information is present. Often it is necessary

to carefully evaluate the source of the data. Both professionals and the

general public now have easy access to legitimate medical information as

well as inaccurate and misleading material. To make optimal use of the

World Wide Web, you need to be able to do your own information searches.

Don’t think that you need to immediately master the kind of complex search

logic used by medical librarians. There are different types of web

searches with different levels of complexity. Some are more suited for

intuitive thinkers and other more analytical minds. In some cases, you can

combine two different basic search techniques in the course of a single


     This may sound dry, but in practice it can be

exciting, fun and even amusing. One can fantasize about sitting in a

conference with a plugged in laptop, pulling up scads of relevant articles

and questioning the presenter about them. Some fantasies need to stay just

that. Don’t actually do this or you will never get invited anywhere. Just

sit in back with your laptop and grin.

     A good basic  approach involves web

search  engines such as Altavista

or Ask Jeeves which have the

capacity to do a “natural

language search.”  One simply enters a question such

as”What are the causes of schizophrenia?” The search engine

would then list sites with articles about the causes of schizophrenia. If

you then wanted to narrow the search to theories related to genetic causes

of schizophrenia, many search engines then allow you to press a

“refine” or “narrow search” button. In this case, you

might want to enter “genetic” to narrow the search. I tend to

get to know the technique and general “feel” for one or two

general search sites. Google is also an excellent search site which offers

a variety of ways to formulate searches.

     If you need more technical articles on

schizophrenia, or other medical/psychiatric topic from the medical or

educational literature, there are several major indexes to consider. The

National Library of Medicine, gives access to

free searches of the Index Medicus, a large number of internationally

known medical journals. ERIC is

a large index of educational journals. CEC

Eric Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education is devoted to

issues related to disabilities and gifted education.

     Several web search

engines such as Google and Atlavista offer a translation system that

will translate a web site into your language. One can enter text for translation get a web site translated.

This can be useful if one accesses web sites or online journals in French,

Italian, Portuguese, German Spanish or other languages. It seemed to do a good job

when tested with some simple German translation, but one should probably

not make important medical decisions based on these translations alone.

     Medline and some sections of Eric use Boolean

Search Operators. Basic information on Boolean

Search Operators   would be enough for most searches. For

those who wish to do powerful or complex searches, the National Library of

Medicine has a page, Syntax

of Complex Boolean Expression  which gives more detail for those

who wish to do advanced Boolean searches.