Librarian & information specialist
Access to online information has never been easier, though, finding information that is relevant and trustworthy, can be more challenging. The Internet provides access to various types of information for research purposes, however, as the operators of the Internet, we need certain skills and knowledge (digital literacy) to make the best use of it.
When using an Internet search engine, your results will likely contain a mixture of online media (social, news, blogs, wiki, videos), governmental, individual, organisational and academic content. Yet which can we trust, and what skills do we need, to have confidence in the decisions we are making from the information found online?
Digital literacy broadly describes the ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to address or solve a problem . It’s about having the skills to make meaning from information found using digital technologies (computers, mobiles, electronic devices). However, a digital divide can occur when unequal access to knowledge due to differences in education, demographics (age, gender, socioeconomic, culture) geographic limitations, skills and access to technology. For all users, especially older people, it can be difficult to keep up with the advances that come with technological development, especially if they require consumers that are ‘tech savvy’ to be able to engage with services such as My Aged Care . To help with this, the Australian Government has created the Be Connected initiative. Individuals working in aged care themselves, can also experience a lack of confidence in using and exploring new technologies, due to a lack of ongoing digital literacy training and support, to support this we have created our free Innovator Training Program.
Tips for searching for information online:
- Enquire: Run a basic search with either a question or just the terms (keywords) you currently think are relevant. Visit online search tips for more.
- Review: Scan the results for relevance to your enquiry, at this stage practice click restraint, create a new folder in your bookmarks, for relevant results you want to save for later. Pay attention to the variety of words that describe your concept and take a note of them. Using frequently used terms for your search can result in more specific results.
- Amend: Go back and amend your original search, with any new terms and rerun the search. To manage your results, use the advance settings if available and limit to region / site (ORG/EDU/GOV) / file types or in the basic settings arrange by date, so you see the most current. Again, use your bookmarks to save content of interest. For more advanced amendments try these.
- Read: Look at what you have gathered, note how the topic is discussed, what other elements are related to it? These might be worth separate searches as you narrow down and continue to educate yourself on the subject.
- Trust: Whatever source you look at, check its integrity by looking at the end of the page, was it updated recently, does the information have references, is it an individual’s option or is it something a government or academic publisher has produced. Neither are full proof, but you need to check quality and credibility of your sources.
- Variation: Try different search engines, or focus down into organisations by using their own site search, to see if they contain the type of research, you’re interested in. For example, search aged care organisations sites for research collections or their publications sections. Check in the help of each search engine for articles or information on how they formulate their search results, to give you the best understanding of how to operate each. Like this Google one.
Following these steps, no matter what information you’re looking for and remember that a five-minute search, provides five-minutes’ worth of confidence, where a longer search can provide greater confidence in both your knowledge about subject, alongside increasingly the quality and trustworthiness of your results. For more information into finding information online using search engines, try ARIIA’s ‘beyond PubMed’ for one-click searches, using Google, on our priority topics, as a possible starting point to your research or try our collection of resources. No matter how you look at it, the Internet provides the capacity to gain knowledge quickly and efficiently from a wide range of sources. However, using search engines are just one part of a wider research process. Therefore, in our next in blog, we will look in more detail at how organisational websites and evidence collections, relevant to aged care, can add value to your research needs.
*The views and opinions expressed in Knowledge Blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ARIIA, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.