Thursday, 26 April 2007

5 Essential Search Engine Tips for the Lazy Doctor

Now you might think you know all the best sites on the web for your research, but if you can't be bothered to apply your just a tiny fraction of your brainpower into the few words you type into the search box, then all that knowledge really is in vain.

My disparaging tone comes from watching time after time really poor searches performed on MedWorm, by people who are obviously medical professionals, which return either sub-standard results, or often no results at all.

The fact is, Google has made everyone lazy - to our own detriment. Any mistakes in spelling are usually identified automatically and the amount of data returned is bound to return something relevant.

However, other medical search engines are not so forgiving - in the future they will probably do all the thinking for you, but at the moment they mostly don't, so here's a few really basic and really simple rules that, if applied, will help lazy doctors get much more for less. I'm not talking boolean searches (yet, but might do later) - just stating the blatant obvious - if for no-one else, then at least for my husband, who I know is a great doctor, very intelligent and technically savvy, but an extremely lousy, and I think lazzzzzy, searcher.

1. Spell your words correctly - if you don't get many records returned, double check your spellings.
2. Leave spaces between your words - no joke, I see this time and time again - here's the thing, if you don't use spaces, then the computer thinks the words that you've merged together are actually one. And if you can't see what you are typing clearly, then put your glasses on!
3. Include variations of words:
- singular and plural
- abbreviated and non-abbreviated versions
- both brand names and generic names of drugs
- both medical terminology and commonly used names of conditions
- both American English and International English spellings
4. Think about which words would be used in a medical abstract and use those.
5. Don't bother including words that are not essential to the text you are looking for - unless you are looking for a particular phrase in quotes, most of the time typing in big phrases will actually return a whole load of junk - with just a few relevant articles.

Now these tips are so easy - I know I have stated the obvious here, but like I said, if you can be bothered to apply just a fraction of your thinking power to the task in hand and remember these few basic points, I promise you are going to get a whole lot more for your money, in much less time.

And if you can get your act together with these tips, then maybe I'll tell you about Boolean searching next time.

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