An Introduction to Online Searching for
AH 52 Medical Surgical Nursing

In this exercise you will be introduced to several sources for medical-related research. We will also cover techniques for evaluating the information you find as well as writing bibliographic citations in APA format. It may be helpful for you to read through each section of this assignment before going directly to the different web sites. This way you will know in advance which questions you will be answering.

Note: When you click on the link, your browser should open up a new window for the link. To get back to this assignment page, just close the window by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window. You do not want to X out of this assignment page until you have submitted your answers. Otherwise you will lose all your answers.


An encyclopedia will give you background information, a short overview, and any major names that are associated with your topic. Let's try the Online Encyclopaedia Britannica for information on pharmacokinetics. Click on the link above to get started. If you are doing this assignment from off-campus, you will be asked for a password.  The password is part of your library card number.

After clicking on the underlined link above and typing in your password, type into the search box:


Then click on the Search button. Several article titles will be listed. From your results list, look in the center column and click on the underlined link,

Absorption, distribution, and elimination

In the box, list the 5 processes involved in pharmacokinetics.


Books from a library are a good source for in-depth information on specific subjects or people. The Gavilan library has both print and electronic books on most subjects. Library location will tell you if you are looking for a book in print or an electronic (online) book. Library location Electronic Book indicates that the book can be accessed full text online 24/7 with an ebook account.

Let's look for books on the topic of pharmacology by clicking on the link, Gavilan College Library homepage. This will take you to the library's homepage. Now find the icon for the Gavilan Catalog and click on that.

In the blank box on the next screen, type in your search term, as shown below using the pull-down menu to select keyword anywhere.

screen print of a basic search in the library catalog

Click on the Search button.

Use the pull-down menu to select Sort by: Publish Date Descending to sort the resulting list of titles by date to see the most current titles.

screen print of sort by drop down box


For each title in the list you will see the title, author, date of publication, call number, location and status. The location describes where the item is in the library and the call number tells you where on the shelf to find the item.


screen print of a title listing

From the resulting list of first 10 books, select one of the most current titles available. In the box on the right, enter the book's call number and the title.

How many of these titles are in the Location Electronic Book?

The APA (American Psychological Association) has published guidelines for writing research papers. Research papers are often required to follow this format. Click on the website, APA-Style Documentation and scroll down to the link entitled, All Sections in APA Formatting and Style Guide. Click on some of the links to see correct APA formatting for various forms of print and non-print materials. Pay particular attention to the link for Reference List: Books because we will go back to the Gavilan Library catalog, select a book and write an APA citation for it.

Remember that you'll start with the Gavilan College Library Homepage to get to the book catalog. Select a book with the subject heading by typing in the words surgical nursing in the Search for: box. Notice that the default in the pull-down menu is Keyword. When you click on the search button you will see a listing of subject headings. Select the underlined link, Surgical Nursing to get a list of books with that subject heading.

Remember: APA format requires the title of the book to be italicizeded, like this:

Gone With the Wind

Since you won't be able to do this on the computer, simply start the title with an underline, and at the end, put another underline, like this:

_Gone With the Wind_

Write a citation in standard APA format for the book you found on surgical nursing:

Author last name, first initial. (date) _Title italicizeded_. City: Publisher.

You can find just about anything on the Internet. The World Wide Web is one part of the Internet where all kinds of people and organizations publish information: government agencies, major corporations, universities, nonprofit and social service organizations, small businesses, and individuals. A web site might contain a company's product information, government documents, or an individual's personal opinions. Anyone can publish anything on the web. This means that you shouldn't automatically believe everything you see. Later in this assignment, we will cover evaluation techniques.
When you are interested in exploring a subject, but you don't know any specific sites to start with, you can use a search engine. A search engine is a software program that goes out on the web, seeking web sites and cataloging them. Search engines constantly visit sites on the web to create a catalog of web pages and keeps them current. Many search engines support the use of Boolean logic. Boolean logic provides a means for combining terms using the "and" "not" "or" words in between your terms to refine your search. Parentheses ( ) can separate phrases from these three Boolean operators. Keep in mind that when you use words with "and" or "not" you reduce the number of results.

Google is one search engine that supports the use of Boolean logic. In this next example, we are looking for herbal alternatives to Viagra.

We want to find records that combine all three terms, viagra and herb and alternative. In this diagram, the resulting list are those records falling into the purple intersection of the 3 circles. Every time you add another search term, and another AND, your result list will be smaller.

boolean diagram using viagra, herb and alternative

Go to the Google site by clicking on its link. In Google, the AND connector is assumed. Type the terms in the search box as shown below:

In the box at the right, list one purported herbal alternative to Viagra:

Remember that if you do not find what you are looking for with one search engine, try another. It is also recommended that you read the help or search tip links at the search engine site, as some search engines do not support all the Boolean operators ("and" "or" "not").

Search Engines you may want to use:


Anyone can publish anything on the Internet. Some questions to ask yourself as you look at information are:

  • Who wrote the information?
  • Who is paying the bill to publish the information?
  • Is there an inherent bias?
  • Do the authors quote research that can be checked or repeated?
  • How recent is the information?

To find out who was supporting a site, we we need to understand where Internet information comes from. Major contributors of Internet information can be organized into four large categories:

  • Government sites: including 3 huge federally-funded national libraries
  • Educational institutions: universities, colleges & research institutions
  • Commercial enterprises: everyone trying to sell you something
  • Nonprofit organizations

You can tell which of these four categories is posting the information by looking at the URL, or address of the site. One of the sites from your Viagra search may have had the following URL (directions to the computer on how to get to the website you want):

The first part, http://, tells the computer what protocol to use. The second part,, is the domain name and tells the computer what system to look for. The next part tells the computer which document to load.

It's that second part, the domain name, that tells us from which type of institution this document is coming. Fortunately for researchers, each one of the four big contributors uses a different domain name ending:


Hint: In addition to evaluating the web document itself, it's sometimes helpful to look at the site's homepage to learn about the sponsor/author. To do this click on the location bar (URL) once and the bar should be darkened. Click again and you will see your blinking cursor in that bar. Place the cursor directly after the domain name and delete what follows the domain name. So in this instance, you would delete everything after the ".com". Then hit enter and that will take you to the homepage of the site.

Click on Sexual Health Research. In the box below, write an evaluation based on the five evaluation questions.

  • Who wrote the information?
  • Who is paying the bill to publish the information?
  • Is there an inherent bias?
  • Do the authors quote research that can be checked or repeated?
  • How recent is the information?


In this exercise we covered:
  • Finding encyclopedia articles for background information and short overviews that are associated with your topic

  • Locating library books to provide in-depth information utilizing keyword and subject heading searches

  • Writing bibliographic citations using APA format

  • Utilizing search engines with Boolean logic connectors (AND, OR, NOT)

  • Evaluating the source of your information for credibility and currency



You've almost finished. Now comes the most important part:

 Your Name:
 Your e-mail address:

Please type in the image that you see below:

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Last updated on February 3, 2010

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