How to Find the Best Evidence
Robert L Chatburn RRT-NPS FAARC
Introduction Databases Bibliographic Databases Citation Databases Synthesized Databases Portals Electronic Journals and Books General Internet Resources Suggestions for Conducting Searches
The Internet has made finding evidence for clinical practice fairly easy. Many different types of databases that can besearched for relevant key terms are available for free or for subscription. Bibliographic or library databases contain books, book chapters, reports, citations, abstracts, and either the full text of the articles indexed or links to the full text. Citation databases are specially designed so that you can track the progress of an idea or research topic by searching the published works that cite aparticular author or article. Synthesized databases are pre-filtered records for particular topics. They are usually subscription-based, with relatively large fees (but you can get free access in libraries). This type of database may provide the “best” evidence without extensive searches of standard bibliographic databases. Portals are Web pages that act as a starting point for using the Web orWeb-based services and links to books, journals, patient-education resources, and images. Many medical journals, including RESPIRATORY CARE, are now available online. Finally, even generalized search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Dogpile can provide a wealth of information on medical topics. Key words: evidence, Internet, database, index, research, bibliography, Web, books, journals, searchengine. [Respir Care 2009; 54(10):1360 –1365. © 2009 Daedalus Enterprises]
Introduction As a respiratory therapist, one of your primary responsibilities is to “Actively maintain and continually improve [your] professional competence.”1 A key skill required to sustain this ethic is the ability to find the data required to
make informed decisions about best practice. In this paper I will presenta brief overview of the many sources of data available for determining the best evidence for medical practice and some introductory instruction in how to use them.2,3 Remember, data are just facts; data that impart meaning constitute information; information used is knowledge.
Robert L Chatburn RRT-NPS FAARC is affiliated with the Respiratory Institute, Cleveland Clinic, and with theDepartment of Medicine, Lerner College of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and with Research and Clinical Services, Strategic Dynamics, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Mr Chatburn presented a version of this paper at the RESPIRATORY CARE Journal Symposium at the 54th International Respiratory Congress of the American Association for Respiratory Care, held December 13-16, 2008, inAnaheim, California. Correspondence: Robert L Chatburn RRT-NPS FAARC, Respiratory Therapy, M-56, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH 44195. E-mail: email@example.com.
Mr Chatburn has disclosed a relationship with Cardinal Health.
RESPIRATORY CARE • OCTOBER 2009 VOL 54 NO 10
A database is a structured collection offacts. A list of names and telephone numbers on a piece of paper is a database. A spreadsheet containing a business profit and loss statement is a database. And of course, a project created with a software database design program (eg, Microsoft Access) is a database. The structure is called the database model (eg, a relational model), but the specifics are beyond the scope of this article. Part of thedatabase structure is the index, or mechanism for locating specific data and for enforcing rules, such as preventing duplicate entries. Data are often indexed using a controlled vocabulary, which is a carefully selected set of words and phrases, such that each concept is described using only one term in the set and each term in the set describes only one concept. For example, an article about...
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