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A Guide to Health Research for JUMP Students

Updated version

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Web Page

Consider these questions when you are evaluating web pages as potentially "reliable" sources of information:

  • Does the title of the web page suggest any bias towards the information covered?
  • Is there evidence of bias within the body of the web page?
  • Is it clear who the author of the web page is? Is there a way provided to communicate with the author?
  • If this page is put up by an organization, is it clear what the organization is, and what their stand on the issue is?
  • Are you able to find independent information about the organization from other sources? (This may mean using non-web based reference tools).
  • What sort of domain does the web page's url come from? Is it a .com, .edu, .gov, or .org?
  • Is the information copyrighted? (This does not imply that the information is in any way more reliable, but may indicate an "official" position of an organization).
  • Is the web page dated? Has it been updated recently?
  • Are there obvious typographical or factual errors? Is the page messy? Do all of the links work? In other words, does the page seem to be well sorted, and of sound quality?
  • Does the web page feature any advertising? If so, does it relate to the nature of the site?
  • Finally, where does this page fit in the web generally? Does it link to pages of similar quality? Consider evaluating those sites as well.

 

Resources to Consider When Searching for an Answerable Question

Identify resources to search to answer your information need. Identify the value and differences of resources.  Compare information in sources by evaluating reliability, validity, accuracy, timeliness and point of view or bias.

Library Health Article Resources: . Librarian Tip: Library Health Article Resources are an excellent place to start for scholarly research. See them under Searching Resources. 

For statistics and other information consider sources such as:

Government Web Sites: See examples under Searching Resources. Government-funded web sites tend to have explicit quality assurance processes and are likely to be reliable.  

Health Organizations and Association Web Sites: These can provide information and resources about health conditions, such as the American Cancer Society.

Consumer Health Bodies and Self-Help Groups: Online sources - not all information is evidence-based or reliable quality.

Media Sources:  Media  health content  should be evaluated by looking at whether effects are reported in absolute (actual) numbers.

For Profit Companies: such as Pharmaceutical companies (private enterprises). 

The Evidence Pyramid

Evidence Pyramid

 From:

SUNY Downstate Medical Research Library of Brooklyn:

MEDLINE and the other online medical literature databases try to be as comprehensive as possible in their coverage. As a result, indexed material may have little direct application to present-day medical practice.

The different types of material indexed in MEDLINE are labeled in the pyramid diagram, with the least clinically relevant at the bottom and the most clinically relevant at the top. The four layers above case reports and case series represent actual clinical research; the layers below are least clinically relevant and can be useful as background resources.

The links below provide basic definitions and examples of clinical research designs to help the medical student or new clinician understand how the design of a research study may affect whether or not to accept its findings in caring for a patient.

More detail on each level is available by reading the pages in sequential order or by selecting from the topics below:

Double Blind | Randomized Controlled | Cohort Studies | Case Control
Case Series/Reports | Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
 

Research Designs

The links below provide basic definitions and examples of clinical research designs to help the health student understand how the design of a research study may affect whether or not to accept its findings in caring for a patient or population.

More detail on each level is available by reading the pages in sequential order or by selecting from the topics below:

Double Blind | Randomized Controlled | Cohort Studies | Case Control Case Series/Reports | Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

From the SUNY Downstate Medical Research Library of Brooklyn

Rating System for the Levels of Evidence

Rating System for the Hierarchy of Levels of Evidence

  • Level I — Evidence from a systematic review or meta-analysis of all relevant RCTs
  • Level II — Evidence obtained from well-designed RCTs
  • Level III — Evidence obtained from one well-designed controlled trials without Randomization
  • Level IV — Evidence from well-designed case-control and cohort studies
  • Level V — Evidence from systematic reviews of descriptive or qualitative study
  • Level VI — Evidence from single descriptive or qualities study
  • Level VII — Evidence from the opinion of authorities and/or reports of expert committees

Melnyk, B. M., & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2011). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare: A guide to best practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.