The Way I See It
Finding Good Information on the Internet
by Temple Grandin
Autism Asperger’s Digest | July/August 2011
There is lots of good material on the Internet but there is also lots of rubbish. This is especially true when you are looking for medical information. Two good sources to use are Google Scholar (scholar.google.com) and PubMed (pubmed.gov). Google Scholar is a free web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across a variety of publishing formats and disciplines. PubMed is a service of the US National Library of Medicine® that provides free access to MEDLINE®, a huge database of over 18 million references to articles published in more than 5,500 current biomedical journals from theU.S.and over 80 foreign countries. MEDLINE includes indexed citations and abstracts to medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, health care, and preclinical sciences journal articles, along with additional selected life sciences journals not in MEDLINE.
Both Google Scholar and PubMed offer free summaries of scientific journal articles. Sometimes the entire paper can be obtained for free but at other times, the publisher will charge a fee, as much as $35 per article. To avoid this, you can go back to the regular Google search engine and track down the author’s email address. Authors will often email you a free reprint upon request.
There is so much information on the Internet that you may find it overwhelming and not know what to trust. I have noticed that many websites contain similar information. This would be one indicator that the information is accurate. To prevent information overload in my mind, I categorize all the similar websites as one piece of information. If a reliable website offers links to other articles or websites, that would also indicate you can trust the information you find.
Not all websites are created equal. I consider medical information on WebMD to be more reliable than information on a website selling an array of different, and sometimes weird, products – especially when that website recommends buying their products. To be fair, some commercial sites contain good information. I did get some good tips on preventing heartburn (acid reflux) from a pharmaceutical website. They suggested raising the head of my bed six inches to keep the acid down in my stomach. When I used their tips, I did not have to buy the medication they were advertising. I have also found that patient comments on websites are often very helpful sources of practical, usable information. A combination of these three information sources – scientific journal articles, reliable websites, and patient comments – has been most helpful to me.
Finding Answers Takes Time
Too often people want a quick fix for their problems, often where no quick fixes are available. For example, good early education programs that produce results will require a lot of work. Similarly, finding good information on the Internet will also take time. One of the biggest mistakes many people make is only reading a few resources that appear on the first search page. You need to delve further, looking at options on other pages, until the items listed veer off the search subject.
For a sample search, I decided to look for good science fair and science projects to do with elementary school children. It is important to use lots of different key word phrases when searching for relevant information. For instance, science projects, science fair, and elementary science projects. When I used the keyword science fair, I went in 50 to 60 pages and still found good information and ideas. A reasonable search that provides a fair picture of the information available will require your time. Think of it as investing in your own, or your child’s future. I spent 45 minutes on the web to only scratch the surface of finding good science experiment material.
Another good information source is Google Books (books.google.com). Google Books enables you to look inside and view parts of many books for free, useful to get a sense if the book is worth buying or will satisfy your information needs. Books in the public domain are often available in their entirety for free.
The nice thing about Google Books is that you do not have to open an account to look inside books. Even better, you can locate relevant titles at both Google Books and Amazon.com with search words instead of just by title or author name, resulting in options that may be new-and helpful-to you. When you use these sites you will find that some books do not allow you to peek inside. This is due to copyright agreements with the publisher.
In conclusion, thorough information searches take time. Reading just bits and pieces may not give you a balanced picture of the topic you are researching. Think creatively, and try many different keywords. Look further than the first page, if more options exist. The time you spend researching information will never be wasted, especially when it comes to helping your child or student with ASD.
Temple Grandin is an internationally respected specialist in designing livestock handling systems. She is the most noted high-functioning person with autism in the world today. Visit her website at www.templegrandin.com.
Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2011. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print means prohibited without written permission of publisher.