The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

1997 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

How Can I Manage the Information Explosion?

Shelley C. Mishoe, Ph.D., R.R.T., Tuesday, December 9, 1997.

Managing the information explosion can be an awesome undertaking unless you develop some key strategies to help you keep up on a regular basis. The best way to manage information today is to use a computer to access electronic databases from the library, your office or your home. Medline is the best known electronic database, but sometime it is confusing because there appears to be so many names for it! In actuality, there is only one Medline, but there are several suppliers with their own software such as Ovid, SilverPlatter, Knowledge Finder, Grateful Med and others. In all cases, Medline is the same, namely the National Library of Medicine (NLM) MEDLAR database which includes Index Medicus, the International Nursing Index and the Index to Dental Literature for journals in clinical medicine and basic sciences. Now you can access Medline through the Internet from a computer in your home at

When conducting a literature search, choose the database which is most likely to have the journals on the topics you want. Look at additional databases such as the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL), HealthStar, EMBASE and others. In CINAHL, you will find our professional journal, "Respiratory Care," and also ERIC documents. HealthStar includes health management and health-related journals such as "Quality of Life." If you do not find what you are looking for in one database, then try another! Do not rely solely on Medline. When conducting your search, decide and define what you want to find. Formulate a query into a question, using as many synonyms as possible and translate your natural language query into MeSH, the medical subject headings. MeSH is the NLM controlled list of words. An advantage to using MeSH is that the index term describes the content of the paper, so your search will automatically pick up papers on your subject even if the term is not in the title or abstract. Some software such as OVID automatically links to the MeSH word and you can look up MeSH terms through the tool bar menu. Using "Boolean Operators" like "or" or "and" can also improve your searching strategies. This talk with give examples on how to improve your search.

How do you manage the references you have? It is a good idea to use a software package like Reference Manager, EndNote 2 or Pro-cite to keep track of your references. These software packages are especially helpful when preparing citations for preparation of reports, lectures, critical pathways or journal articles. You can also keep files with hard copies of articles you have read, arranged by topics or key words. Preparing annotated bibliographies and writing notes on each references can also help you keep track of your information. You may want to use additional software with capture features to automatically import references downloaded from on-line services or CD-ROM. An overview of available software and their advantages will be presented.

Other ways to manage the information explosion include searching the Internet and book marking key sites. For example, you can bookmark the site for asthma articles published in the N Engl J Med and periodically review updates. Many abstracts and full-text articles are now available on-line. You can also track references cited at professional meetings and in other articles. Critical reviews on a topic are ideal resources to get you started. Reading or skimming professional journals on a regular basis will also help you keep up. You can even use the Internet to skim leading newspapers which often cite medical journals and current research. Networking with colleagues is an essential component for helping you manage the abundance of information. Finally, ask questions, be inquisitive, and enjoy learning. You will be given additional tips on how you can adopt reliable strategies for managing the information explosion!

AARC 50th Anniversary, December 6 - 9, 1997, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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