Finding Health Information: A Path Through the Maze

This tutorial gives you an overview of key basic concepts and techniques for accessing health information using several online tools and databases.

Choosing Information Tools

The strategy you use to access health information is likely to vary depending on a number of variables, including

  • The kind of research you are doing (whether for personal, academic, or professional purposes.)
  • The subject you are researching. Different subjects are often found in different information resources.
  • How much you already know about a topic.
  • Your research stage. If you are just starting your research, you may want to read a general or introductory textbook. At a later stage you may benefit more from resources that contain more specific information. Both kinds of resources are important.

The following suggestions are intended to get you started on finding information related to a disease or other health topic.

For background information or a quick overview:

Reference books (whether online or in print) may contain good background information to help you start your research. For instance, since Jane is at the beginning of her research about alcoholism, she will want to use some of the following resources:

For in-depth information:

Search in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog using a specific subject heading to find both online and print books focused on the topic.

For the latest research or detailed information you didn't find in texts:

As you get more comfortable with your topic you will want to read more detailed information about it. Articles from journals and consumer information from the Internet are good options. For example, Rob will find useful websites about allergy medications in MedlinePlus. Cheryl will want to search PubMed and HealthSource for articles about diabetes and exercise.

  • MedlinePlus: Contains accurate, current, medical information. This includes access to extensive information about specific diseases and conditions.
  • PubMed: The world's largest database of biomedical information, PubMed provides articles for providers on all aspects of healthcare.
  • Health Source, Nursing/A:cademic Edition Journal articles related to patient care, many of which are full text.

Remember, as you look at sources, that you want the most current information on your topic. Medical information changes quickly!

About Medical Terminology

Words used in medical information sources are often different from the words we use in everyday life. For example, the medical term for cancer is 'neoplasms.' The resources discussed in this module will help give you a basis for learning the medical terminology related to your topic. In addition, the National Library of Medicine provides a tutorial that can help you better understand medical terminology.

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