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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2000

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Book Reviews

How to Find Medical Information on the Internet: A Print and Online Tutorial for the Healthcare Professional and Consumer

Debbie Jan
Public Health Library
University of California, Berkeley

How to Find Medical Information on the Internet: A Print and Online Tutorial for the Healthcare Professional and Consumer. Diane K. Kovacs and Ann L. Carlson. Berkeley, CA: Library Solutions Press, 2000. Internet Workshop Series No. 10. 128p. $60.00. (ISBN 1-882208-27-7)

Intended for educating healthcare professionals and consumers on how to locate and evaluate medical information they find on the Internet, this book can also serve as a learning resource tool for information professionals and other instructors.

The authors divide their book into three instructional units ("Getting Started," "The Internet as a Powerful Means of Communications," and "Beyond Basics") with three appendices ("Pulsepoints," "Glossary of Basic Internet Facts and Concepts," and "Further Reading"). "Getting Started" discusses what you can do and find on the Internet, explains what the Internet is and what services it provides, gives basic rules on how to evaluate information, and discusses privacy and security issues. The "Internet as a Powerful Means of Communications" covers electronic mail/electronic discussion groups and Netiquette. "Beyond Basics" describes search strategies and filtering techniques. The exercises at the end of each unit can be used in a classroom setting by an instructor or by the reader to help understand the topic. Explanations and guides are provided throughout the exercises, which can be done online; strategies can be e-mailed to the authors for feedback. This tutorial format makes the book very practical and easy to use.

"Pulsepoints," 42 pages of annotated medical web sites, is an excellent starting point in the search for authoritative and reliable medical web sites. Most annotations describe specific content that would be of interest to the reader. A weakness is that some annotations do not give enough specific information to lead one to visit the site. For example, the annotation for the Chiropractic Resource Organization is "Non-partisan site for chiropractors, maintained by chiropractors." A useful feature is that words explained in the "Glossary of Basic Internet Facts and Concepts" are italicized throughout the text.

Diane Kovacs and Ann L. Carlson are both librarians who for many years have been teaching use of the Internet for medical information. Diane Kovacs is well known for her work with the {Directory of Scholarly and Professional Electronic Conferences} which is now in its 14th revision. She has also written a number of Internet training books and moderates NETTRAIN, a discussion list for Internet trainers.

The real value of this book is its format and the six-month online access to the companion web site. The companion web site duplicates the units and appendices and updates "Pulsepoints." In the web site "Pulsepoints" section, there are three categories not available in the book: "Recently Added Sites," "Recently Deleted Sites," and "Recently Changed Sites." I found it confusing that notes updating the units are being placed into the "Pulsepoints Recently Added Sites" category. Why a couple of web site names were in bold face is also unclear. Despite these confusing aspects, the "Pulsepoints" section is very valuable.

This recent addition to the Internet Workshop Series is a valuable resource for locating reliable and authoritative medical information -- for the consumer trying to find information and for those teaching others. It would be a worthy addition to any public or consumer health library collection.

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