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Information Literacy Tutorial

Informatics Literacy for Medical Students

Information Literacy: Introductory Level Module Objectives

The ability to critically evaluate information sources is an essential skill of all medical professionals. 

The Introductory module is the first step to develop this skill. 

Objectives of this module:

  1. Students will be able to identify information source levels within the world wide web.
  2. Students will be able to evaluate web information sources.  
  3. Students will be able to identify the difference between search results within Google vs. Scholarly databases.
  4. Students will demonstrate awareness of the ATSU Get Started Libguide. 

Information Source Evaluation

Descriptions of Web Levels

Surface Web: 

  • All of the websites accessible with a general search.
  • Access is free and generally funded by advertising, organizations or governments.
  • Researchers are cautioned to carefully evaluate the information found in the surface web.
  • Websites ending in .com or .org may contain information that could be considered "background information," however few are considered peer reviewed sources.
  • Websites ending in .gov can provide reliable statistical and government funded information sources (e.g. 
  • Open access, Gray literature, and Preprints 

Deep Web: 

  • 90% of the information on the internet 
  • Websites in the deep web require subscriptions, contain private information (e.g. financial or health care), academic institutions or corporate data.
  • Scholarly, peer reviewed information is found at this level. The ATSU library databases are an example of information in the deep web.
  • Students and faculty are able to access full text articles not available through Google due to the subscriptions paid to access the databases. 

Dark Web: Generally associated with criminal activity. 




  • Who is the author? 
  • What are their qualifications, education, credentials? Can they be verified? 
  • Who is the sponsoring organization of the website? Is there an "About Us" page? 
  • Is contact information provided to confirm site's statements? 
  • Is the information provided fact, opinion or propaganda? Is it to promote advertising purposes? 
  • Is the information supported by reliable sources? Are the sources cited? 
  • Does the information support other findings? Does the information add to or refute other studies?
  • Are the ideas and arguments consistent with other credible works on the same topic? 
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotion-arousing words and bias? 
  • Who is the intended audience? Is the information for promotional purposes?
  • Is the information technical, scientific, or presented in plain language?
  • The language of the supporting information should match the targeted audience.
  • Is the article written to express opinion or supported facts? 
  • Are other points of view explored or expressed? 
  • What is the purpose of the page? To promote, to inform or to express opinion? 
  • What does the URL say about the site? (e.g. .edu, .gov, or .com)
  • Information regarding the sponsor of the website, about us, should be clearly available
  • What are the benefits of sharing this information? To promote a product or political view? To share existing knowledge? 
  • Who is the intended audience? Does the wording of the information coincide with the targeted audience? 
  • Is the purpose of the resource clearly stated? Does it fulfill its purpose? 
  • How is this information relevant to your research? 
  • When was the information published? 
  • Are links and other information current? 
  • Topical information in the fields of medicine and science require the most current information. 
  • Is the author's point of view clearly stated? Is it supported by scholarly sources? 
  • Is the purpose of the resource clearly stated? Does it fulfill its purpose? 
  • Is the topic adequately covered? 
  • Does the source provide links to additional information? 
  • Does the source support other findings? Does it add to or refute other studies?
  • Ensure that the quantity and quality of evidence presented supports the conclusions.
  • A credible source is defined as one in which the author provides unbiased, scientifically substantiated, evidence acknowledged by peers within the field of specialty. 

Google vs. Databases

In the search for credible, scholarly and peer reviewed medical evidence, it is vital to start the search from a credible source. While Open Access sources are becoming more readily available, a large majority of published scientific evidence remains behind pay walls. The databases provided to ATSU students on the library website, provide access to scholarly information and ensure quality scientific data. 

Google: a good resource to begin background research or familiarize yourself with a topic. 

  • Google presents results based on popularity, not quality or reliability.
  • Google results include sponsored links which are results paid for by advertisers.
  • Results need to be evaluated carefully for credibility.  Anyone can create a web page.
  • You can only access free information via Google.  There is much more information available behind a paywall, that is not free.  Library databases are behind a paywall.

Google does have a place in academic research.  It is used to find government documents, statistics, opinion pieces and professional organizations.

Google Scholar: 

  • Content: articles, theses, books, abstracts, gray literature and court opinions
  • Sources: academic publishers, professional organizations, online repositories, universities and multimedia websites
  • Ranking: weighs full text, where published, authorship, frequency and dates of citation. (Rank = where results sit in search results)
  • Links: directly to articles of scholarly journals; not necessarily full text.
  • Finds: "cited by" feature locates related materials

Why use Google Scholar: 

  • Search results are presented in order of relevancy
  • Web-based materials which are not located in other databases
  • Searches are broad cross-sections of subjects and disciplines (background information sources)
  • "Cited by" link leads to additional resources
  • Links to ATSU online text


  • Gaps in coverage; frequency of updates is unknown
  • May omit a particular year, issue numbers, or journal titles from search results
  • Bias toward older literature
  • Functionality: search deficits and results
Search deficits Results
Does not adapt to variance of spellings of author names or journal titles Limited to 1,000 (20 per page)
Queries limited to 256 characters Search history is not available
No controlled vocabulary Search is not reproducible and may vary day to day
No truncation feature Numerous "false results" due to mis-indexing of references
Search strings or queries cannot be saved Cannot export bulk citations to a citation manager; must be done by individual record

Library Databases

  • Searching from the library home page, Still OneSearch, will search all of the resources within the library catalog including, books, magazines and journals. 
  • Searching within the library database ensures credible, scholarly and peer reviewed results. 
  • Information within the library has been tagged with data.  This allows you to search by author, title, publication date, topic, peer-reviewed, and more.
  • Information has been evaluated.  Evaluation ranges from basic editorial evaluation (a magazine) to peer-review (a scholarly journal).
  • Still OneSearch Video Tutorial