Nursing practice involves searching for relevant information able to help the specialists to make the process of decision-making more effective. Therefore, appropriate searching skills are of vital importance for modern nurses. The internet has become one of the most popular sources of credible information. Certain skills are needed to ensure the quality of the information. Modern nurses are encouraged to use both internet search engines and professional library databases. However, the comparison of the results gained by using online library databases and search engines demonstrate some significant differences related to the credibility of sources.
The World Wide Web has provided the access to greater amount of information than was possible ever before. Searching tools have played a major role in the process of popularization of searching for necessary information on the Web. Google and similar internet search engines are based on “free-text searching of the content of public web pages” (Brophy & Bawden, 2005, p. 498). This method appears to be very convenient and has gained immense popularity over the last decades. However, as the popularity of internet search engines grows, the popularity of libraries declines. This tendency demonstrates a misconception common among the modern population that makes people consider results gained by using web search engines equal to conducting classic literature research in the library. However, the credibility of information found on the web by using Google or similar tools is not guaranteed or proved. Therefore, the convenience of using such tools is not always accompanied by the relevancy of gained results. Online library databases unite such qualities as the convenience of using web search and the credibility of library sources. Therefore, they let web users to use easy and quick search techniques and have an opportunity to find reliable academic sources.
To evaluate nursing knowledge found by using internet search engines and online library databases, the main features of the retrieved information should be compared. While search engines help to find any information published at commercial, educational, and governmental sites and rarely give access to scholarly articles and books, library databases are focused on presenting specific literature, such as scholarly journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, etc. The sources found by using search engines can be authored by anyone while library databases present sources authored by scholars, researchers, and other professionals. The content of library databases is evaluated by experts and is regularly reviewed while content found by using search engines is not evaluated or reviewed by any specialists. Searching for information in online library databases, the person can use advanced search criteria while search engines do not give such option and present information without organizing it. Besides, the information presented at online library databases is more stable than the one found with the help of search engines, as web pages can change or disappear.
Nursing knowledge found on the Web should be accurately checked for credibility, as it directly influences the decisions made by clinicians. Therefore, this knowledge has a huge impact on the health of patients and should be assessed in terms of its reliability, accessibility, and usability. The analysis of main specifics of different ways of attaining nursing knowledge on the Web reveals that online library databases give access to the information that is more reliable than the one found by using search engines. Therefore, online library databases appear to be more suitable for using in nursing practice, as the articles and books stored in them are written by prominent scientists and researchers and present information that is based on scientific evidence and can be a basis for making efficient decisions. Search engines give an opportunity to find any source available on the Internet, but the process of assessing its reliability is left for the user. Online library databases give access to specific literature useful for nurses but require special access to the system, while search engines give access to all information that is free for use and can be used by anyone.
Several studies were conducted to examine the process of searching for information in nursing practice and the main differences between information retrieved using different searching methods. Brophy and Bawden (2005) conducted a research and found out that the main discriminating factors between online library databases and Google search engine are quality and accessibility. Quality favors library systems while accessibility favors Google. Dee and Stanley (2005) studied the information-seeking behavior of nursing students and nurses and found out that nursing students make more use of available online sources than practicing nurses while both categories lack database searching skills. Millers, Jones, Graves, and Sievert (2010) proposed methods for overcoming the problem of lack of skills related to using databases and conducted a research that revealed that training can help to “address needed skill-building in information literacy assessment” (p. 13).
The analysis of main specifics of nursing knowledge found in online library databases and by using an internet search engine reveals that library databases appear to be more credible and appropriate sources of information vital to nursing practice.
Brophy, J., & Bawden, D. (2005). Is Google enough? Comparison of an Internet search engine with academic library resources. Aslib Proceedings, 57(6), 498 – 512.
Dee, C., & Stanley, E. E. (2005). Information-seeking behavior of nursing students and clinical nurses: Implications for health sciences librarians. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 93(2), 213-222.
Miller, L. C., Jones, B. B., Graves, R. S., & Sievert, M. C. (2010). Beyond Google: Finding and evaluating Web-based information for community-based nursing practice. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 7(1), 1-16.