Locating and Evaluating Health and Medical Information

Stethosope and white cross in red circle iconRemember you can always Ask a Librarian
We are here to help whenever you need us!
We will work with you one-on-one to help you locate any information you want.

*Click for a printable version: English Español

Four Ways to do your own health research:

1. Search the Library Catalog at https://plymc.bibliocommons.com/
Type the health topic, such as a specific disease or disorder for which you want information
Screenshot of Bibliocommons Library Catalog Keyword Search for Disorder








2. Browse the 600s Health Shelves in the library where you will find books, such as:

610 – Medical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
611 – Human Anatomy (Where is my heart in my body?)
612 – Human Physiology (the body’s systems – How does my digestive system work?)
613 – Nutrition, Diet and Exercise
614 – First Aid and How to Avoid Infections and Diseases
615 – Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications, and Addiction
616 – Diseases and Disorders
617 – Surgery and Medical Tests
618 – Pregnancy, Pediatrics and Geriatrics
619 – Veterinary Medicine (for your pets)

3. Use the Library’s Online Health Resources

  1. Go to the Library Home Page: https://www.libraryvisit.org/
  2. Scroll to Research and Click: Online Resources
  3. On the left, Click: Health Resources

Screenshot of Health Resources webpage









4. Try the Internet using a search engine, such as Google

  • Note: be careful and check your results
  • Most trustworthy website domain is .gov
  • .com sites are commercial, they want to sell products
  • .org are often nonprofit, but often have ads

How to Spot Fake News illustrated chart











(Source: IFLA-How To Spot Fake News)


Checking Health Information from books, magazines, TV news or online websites

Five tips when reading, listening or watching health news reports:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Does the story only claim the benefits? Does it quickly run through the list of side effects?
  3. What about the cost of the procedure, product or treatment?
  4. Does the story report about a “simple screening test”? If it does, that should raise a red flag as there are no “simple screening tests”.
  5. More is not necessarily better when it comes to health care.

Three tests to use when looking at health information:


  • Currency: The timeliness of the information
  • Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
  • Authority: The source of the information
  • Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
  • Purpose: The reason the information exists

SMART Check:

  • Source: Who or what is the source?
  • Motive: Why do they say so?
  • Authority: Who wrote the story?
  • Review: Go over the story carefully
  • Two-source test: Double check everything if possible

ABCs of Website Evaluation (which also applies to books and magazine articles):

  • Accuracy: Is the Information based on sound medical research? Is it based on fact?
  • Authority: Who is the author? What are their credentials?
  • Bias/Objectivity: Who is the sponsor?
  • Currency/Timeliness: Check the date
  • Coverage: Is the information comprehensive?

Great websites to learn more about evaluating health information:

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Choosing Health Apps Chart:

Choosing Health Apps Chart









Source: NNLM Midwest Matters July 9, 2018 “Suspect before you download that Health or Wellness App”


Don’t Forget:
While libraries and librarians provide access to medical information, librarians are not medical professionals and cannot provide medical advice. This information is intended to provide a broad overview of health care topics; and should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or advice of your physician or other health care provider. The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County does not recommend the self-management of health problems. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.