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Beck Library - Research Tools

Guide To Online Health & Medical Research

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Research Subject Titles


Evaluating Health & Medical Sites

"Tips for Healthy Surfing Online: Finding Quality Healthcare Information on the Internet." Internet Healthcare Coalition. 2002. "Since 1997, the Internet Healthcare Coalition has been working to provide clear guidance for evaluating online sources of health information." This site offers 10 tips for evaluating the reliability of online health information. website

Watch for the HONcode seal. It means that the web site subscribes to the "Health On the Net Foundation Code of Conduct." You may search for HONcode accredited sites from the HON site. website

"Is this health information good for me?" National Network of Libraries of Medicine Pacific Northwest Region. website

Barrett, Stephen. Quackwatch: Your Guide to Health Fraud, Quackery, and Intelligent Decisions.

"Quackwatch, Inc., a member of Consumer Federation of America, is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, and fallacies." website

"Evaluating Medical Information on the Web." U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Human Genome Project Information 9 Jan. 2003. website

"10 Things To Know About Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 31 May 2002. website

Harris, Robert. "Evaluating Internet Research Sources." VirtualSalt. 17 Nov. 1997.

The VirtualSalt web site has a wide range of resources on Internet research, including a very readable and helpful page on evaluating Internet resources. website

Jacobson, Trudi, and Laura Cohen. "Evaluating Internet Resources." University at Albany Libraries. April 1996. website

"Web Site Evaluation Form." Montgomery County Public Schools Division of Technology Training. 15 June 1999. website

"Critical Evaluation of Resources." U.C. Berkeley Library. march 2001. website

Schrock, Kathy. "The ABC's of Web Site Evaluation." Dec 1998/jan. 1999. Classroom Connect. website

Spitz, Barbara. "Web Site Evaluation Form." 7 Nov. 2002. Madison Metropolitan School District. website

Jansen, Barbara. "Web Site Evaluation Guide." St. Andrew's Episcopal School, Austin, TX. 2002. website Barker, Joe. "Web Page Evaluation Checklist." U.C. Berkeley. 2002. website "Student Evidence Anaylsis Form." website

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Medical Megasites

These sites offer a wide array of types of information for researching health and medical topics. They are one-stop shopping for medical information and will include resources like medical encyclopedias, medical dictionaries, pharmaceutical information, news, disease facts, advice from doctors, articles, and links to other sites. Some of the best megsites are MEDLINEplus,, WebMD,, and As you go through the following topics, you will notice that many of the recommended resources are on medical megasites.

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Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Online Reference Resources is a good place to start when doing research on most topics is with an encyclopedia or dictionary. They give a nice overview of a topic including terminology that you can use for searching your topic. Entries will often include some information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment as well as references and links to related web sites.

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia at MEDLINEplus website This is a terrific resource. The entries are arranged alphabetically and the information provided includes illustrations, definitions, tests, symptoms, treatments, complications, and more. Information on tests includes explanations of how the test is performed, how the test will feel, what abnormal results mean, and risks associated with the test.

Merriam Webster Medical Encyclopedia at MEDLINEPlus website and MedTerms Medical Dictionary website provides word definitions plus additional information like tests and medications and links to related information.

Encyclopedia Britannica online is not a medical encyclopedia, but it does include a great deal of medical information. There are two different versions of this resource, the subscription version and the public version. The BC3 subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica is limited to on-campus us only; access it from the BC3 Library's web sit ( To access the public version, go to this website.

Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy: website Nurses's PDR Resource Center - a companion to the PDR Nurse's Drug Handbook; site includes access to the drug database, drug news from RN Magazine, links to other drug websites.

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Clinical Trials

It is often useful to look at the current medical research. To search for clinical trials funded primarily by the United States federal government, search the National Library of Medicine's Clinical Trials database website, and to search for clinical trials primarily funded by drug companies, search the CenterWatch database at this website. These databases will list who is currently being funded and abstracts of the research. Other sites provide information on ongoing research for specific conditions. These include the National Cancer Institute's PDQ website, the AIDS clinical Trials Information Service website. Medical associations may also provide access to current research studies information.

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Journal Articles: EBSCOhost and PubMed

The BC3 library's EBSCOhost subscription offers access to three medical periodical indexes: Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, CINAHL, and Clinical Pharmacology Many of the articles indexed in EBSCOhost are available full text online. If the article that you want is not available full text, check the BC3 Library Catalog to see if the library subscribes to the journal. If the journal is not held at BC3, you may want to order a copy of the article through interlibrary loan.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine maintains PubMed, the premier index for medical research. It is available free of charge.

Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition This database provides nearly 600 scholarly full text journals focusing on many medical disciplines. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition also features abstracts and indexing for nearly 850 journals. This database is updated on a daily basis.

CINAHL, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature, is the authoritative resource for nursing and allied health professionals, students, educators and researchers. This database provides indexing and abstracting for over 1,600 current nursing and allied health journals and publications dating back to 1982, totaling over 700,000 records. Latest update file 12/13/02.

Clinical Pharmacology provides access up-to-date, concise and clinically-relevant drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs, hard-to-find herbal and nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products and new and investigational drugs.

PubMed (MEDLINE) website, is the primary tool used by medical professionals to locate published articles on medical research. This is a massive database published by the National Library of Medicine covering the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. The file dates from present back to the 1960's. Articles published prior to 1960 can be found in NLM's OLDMEDLINE database. A PubMed tutorial is available at this website website.

Other databases at the National Institutes of Health

  • AGELINE contains detailed summaries of publications about older adults and aging, including books, journal and magazine articles, research reports, and videos.

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Fact Sheets

Most of the medical megasites have informational fact sheets, pamphlets, or brochures. MEDLINEplus and the are both excellent resources for this type of information. The National Institutes of Health website is another good source .

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Diagnosis and Treatment

Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy: website

MEDLINEplus Test Reference: website, Look up the test in the alphabetical index.


"Drug Information" at MEDLINEplus

Search for specific drugs using the alphabetical directory of drug names. Entries will include brand names for the drug and prescription, usage, dosage, side effects, and other information. The site provides links to recall and drug safety information, and the National Library of Medicine Clinical Trials database where you can search for current drug studies. "Drug Search" Mayo Clinic. Information provided includes drug name, brand names, description, usage, precautions, use during pregnancy or breast feeding, side effects, and more.

Nurses's PDR Resource Center, website, a companion to the PDR Nurse's Drug Handbook. This site includes access to the drug database, drug news from RN Magazine, and links to other drug websites.

Consumer's Online Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) website.

Food and Drug Administration website.

Clinical Pharmacology, database available through the BC3 EBSCOhost subscription website, you will be required to enter your BC3 ID number in order to access EBSCOhost

Clinical Pharmacology provides access up-to-date, concise and clinically-relevant drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs, hard-to-find herbal and nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products and new and investigational drugs.

"List of Pharmacies" website VIPPS is a database of online pharmacies that meet standards set by the National Association of boards of Pharmacy.

Alternative or Complementary Medicine

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), National Institutes of Health website. Here you may browse Fact Sheets, search for Clinical Trials, and locate articles in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Database. You may search the Health Information section either by disease/condition or by treatment. Use the "associations" links to find associations related to specific treatments. This is a good way to find practitioners in an area, as well as additional information. Check out their list of considerations when choosing an alternative medicine practitioner website.

Alternative Medicine Homepage, website, is maintained by medical librarian, Charles B. Wessel, M.L.S., Health Sciences Library System, University of Pittsburgh. It is designed to be a "jumpstation for sources of information on unconventional, unorthodox, unproven, or alternative, complementary, innovative, integrative therapies."

MEDLINEplus Alternative Medicine page website

Alternative Health News Online website. Use the "health topics" alphabetical list to search for information on specific treatments.

Alternative Medicine Foundation website. Maintains an herbal medicine database called HerbMed,website, which you can search by plant name to locate a wide range of information including uses, contraindications, clinical trials, pictures, and research articles. Under "Resource Guides" you will find information on choosing an alternative medicine practitioner that includes a list of professional associations. There is a bibliography of books, journals, and web sites.


MEDLINEplus Surgery Reference website



Produced by the National Rehabilitation Information Center, this is a free database that indexes articles, research reports, books and audiovisual materials related to people with disabilities.

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Medical Associations

Healthfinder, maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a list of "Web Resources and Organizations." To be included in Healthfinder, an association must meet standards set by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

MEDLINEplus maintains a list of health organizations website.

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Consumer Health Information

Support Groups

These virtual support groups may either be maintained healthcare professionals or laypeople personally involved with the specific condition. They will often provide access to a group of individuals experienced with condition through technologies like online chat, electronic bulletin boards, or listservs. The may also provide advice, referral services, fact sheets, newsletters, and more. Access support groups through medical megasites like WebMD,, or For a list of bulletin boards, chats, and newsgroups, go to Several sites maintain access to mailing groups including Yahoo Groups, and Liszt and Topica.

Researching Doctors

  • "Choosing a Doctor." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website.
  • The American Medical Association maintains a "Doctor Finder" database that lists background and specialty information on doctors. Doctors update their own records in the database. American Medical Association
  • The American Board of Medical Specialties maintains a searchable database of board-certified. You can search it by a doctor's name. Click on the Who's Certified link to access the database. You will need to register in order to search the database, but there is no fee.
  • Directory of Healthfinder Organizations Another way to locate a doctor certified in a specific medical specialty is to first find the web site for the medical association for that specialty area, then see if the association maintains a list of specialty physicians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service maintains a directory of medical organizations that meet standards set by the Department.
  • HealthGrades grades physicians on several criteria and allows users to view a physician report card for a fee. The report card contains detailed information and costs under $10.00. Go to UltimateInsuranceLinks.comfor a list of insurers. Some insurance companies provide physician profiles. For example, from UltimateInsuranceLinks, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield link brings you to a page from which you can search for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield branch in your location. Then you can search the Blue Cross/Blue Shield provider list for doctors profiles that include basic information like board certification, medical school, hospital affiliation, and address.
  • U.S. News Best Hospitals Finder, website, ranks hospitals based on surveys, data, and other information. Links to the home pages of rated hospitals where you can then locate doctors at that hospital.
  • Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine. From many state medical board web sites, you can check the status of a physician's license and see if the physician has been disciplined. At the Pennsylvania site, click on the LicensePA link to search the state's database. To locate another state's medical board, search by the state name and the words "medical board." Some states do not make this information available, some charge a fee for it, and some require you to submit a letter or email request for it.
  • The Public Citizen's Health Research Group, website, group publishes a book that lists doctors who have been disciplined and why. A partial list of doctors who have been disciplined is available on their web site. They do not have this information available for every state. For those states in which they do have information on their web site, only the basic fact of whether or not a doctor has been disciplined is available free of charge. More detailed information is available for a fee. At the medical board's web site, look for a link to licensure or credentials. Some states do not make this information available, some charge a fee for it, and some require you to submit a letter or email request for it.

Researching Hospitals

  • "Choosing a Hospital Worksheet." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. website
  • HospitalWeb Maintains a list of links to hospital web sites in the United States; search by state.
  • American Hospital Directory, Click the free services link; then enter a hospital's name to generate a hospital profile.
  • HealthGrades - Grades hospitals with 5,000+ beds on several criteria and allows users to view a hospital report card free of charge. Nice resource lots of detailed information.
  • Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) website. Evaluates hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. Determines whether or not a medical facility meets standards for factors like care and safety. Generates performance reports that are available online through their qualitycheck database. Scroll down the hospitals profile page to access a link to the full report on this web page. To submit a complaint about a medical facility, fill out the JCAHO complaint form available at this website.
  • U.S. News Best Hospitals Finder, website, ranks hospitals based on surveys, data, and other information. This is a list of the top hospitals, not a complete list of hospitals in the United States. This is a good resources to find the hospitals most highly rated for treating a specific condition or for a specific program.
  • Patients Rights New York State's Patient's Bill of Rights website

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Evidence-Based Medicine

National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC), website, a database of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and related documents produced by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the American Medical Association, and the American Association of Health Plans. The NGC provides abstracts of guidelines, allows the user to compare two or more guidelines, and offers a syntheses of guidelines that cover similar topics. Some of the guidelines are available full text online, others may be ordered.

Centre for Health Evidence: User's Guide to Evidence-Based Practice - This website is a set of Evidence-Based Practice Users' Guides that were originally published as a series in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Evidence-Based Medicine Resources - This website is a list of evidence-based medicine resources published by New York University's Frederick L. Ehrman Medical Library.

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Standards and Accreditation

JCAHO website - Information on the new accreditation process is available at this website.

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Resources by Subject


  • Band_Aides & Blackboards website
  • Child Health Guide: Put Prevention into Practice website
  • Children's Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) website
  • FirstGov for Kids -- Health website
  • Identifying and Evaluating Children's Health Resources - ERIC Digest website
  • KidsHealth website
  • Neuroscience for Kids website
  • Soaringwords website
  • Virtual Children's Hospital website

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