Course Outline

A.R. Johnson Banner

Internet Searching With a Focus on Health Information and Health Careers

Objectives: students will learn how to evaluate information found on the Web, become familiar with some sites that offer reliable health information, and become familiar with certain health career sites. This class is best taught in a computer lab, so that students may follow along and work each example. Have students work from the "Course Web Sites" page of this site (on the left-side navigation bar).

Finding Reliable Information

(Following 5 points are from the MedlinePlus page "MedlinePlus Guide to healthy web surfing")

What to look for in a health-related web site: accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, coverage

1. Accuracy (Is the information reliable? Are the links accurate? Sources cited? Information believable?)

  • Site: Feline Reactions to Bearded Men (hoax site): students must identify clues that show this "scientific paper" is a hoax.
  • Clue 1: paper states that assistants were "anesthetized" *before* working with the cats. Can't do anything when you're under anesthesia!
  • Clue 2: authors of papers listed in bibliography include Dr. Suess, Madonna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.
  • Teaching Point: just because something is written in a scholarly style, does not make it accurate or reliable.

2. Authority (Who is the author of the site? What are his/her qualifications? Is the site sponsored by an organization? Is the organization reputable or legitimate?)

  • Site: Wikipedia
  • Activity: students use Wikipedia to search for the topic "autism"
  • Question: who wrote this article? (Students should respond, "anonymous or don't know")
  • Teaching Point: if we don't know who the author is, we cannot assume that the information is authoritive. Therefore Wikipedia, while very useful in many ways, cannot be cited as a primary source.

3. Objectivity (Does the information reveal a bias? What is the point of view of the author? Is the information trying to sway you? Do the links also reflect a bias?)

  • Activity: ask students to define the difference between .com and .org or .edu; explain that .com will likely have a commercial bias while .org, .gov and .edu are less likely to have commercial bias.
  • Site: Google Advanced
  • Point out part of search form that allows user to specify a domain to search--allowing you to omit .com sites from a search.

4. Currency (When was the site last updated? Is the information kept up to date? Is the publication date indicated? Are the links up to date?)

  • Teaching point: medical research should be current, and controversial or important topics will have a large amount of very recent articles or studies published about that topic–beware of sites that reference many older articles.
  • Sites: autism / vaccination sites

5. Coverage (How is the information presented? Heavy use of graphics, text, statistics? Topic coverage cursory or in-depth?)

  • Site: MedlinePlus Autism health topic page
  • Activity: students navigate to MedlinePlus site and search for keyword "autism", click on first result in List ("National Library of Medicine topic page")
  • Teaching Point: note how extensive the coverage is on this topic--different reading levels (parents, researchers), different languages, variety of topics covered, etc. THIS SITE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR RESEARCHING HEALTH TOPICS.

Health Career websites (both Health Careers in Georgia sites,

Activity: students navigate to Health Careers Manual site at, direct them to any career page and review features of page: starting salary, schools, type of skills required, etc.

Highlights of site: 80+ different careers, High School Road Map

Hint: a fun page to look at together is the Nurse Anesthetist page--has a starting salary of over $100,000 a year with a much shorter length of study than a physician specializing in anesthesiology--helps open students' eyes to the variety of careers available.


Activity: students navigate to know as Career OneStop)

Highlights of site: videos, can pick any state to find salaries and workforce projections


  • Pick a healthcare career from the Career OneStop site; find two web sites that list schools/colleges in Georgia with programs for that career.
  • Find two reliable sites that discuss autism/vaccinations concerns and the latest research on this issue.
  • I received an email message that said I could get AIDS or HIV by touching the handle of a gas pump at a gas station. Someone attached dirty needles to the handles. Is this true?