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PHRM 813: Aspects of Patient Care

Guide for Alexandra Herman's Aspects of Patient Care class. Follow the order of the pages to complete the class the week of March 30th & feel free to utilize afterwards as well.

Starting with a Question

When you start your research you always want to begin with a question you are trying to answer. You don't want to have preconceived ideas of what the answer should be. For this class we are going to pretend I am starting with this question:

I am looking at the use of St. John’s Wort for treatment of anxiety in the African American community. Are there any issues, cultural concerns, socioeconomic limitations, etc. that might make it less acceptable to try St. John’s Wort? Is St. John’s Wort safe? Etc.

To begin looking into this I want to think about where I would realistically look to get more information. I might not know much about this topic yet, where do I go to find information that will help me in understanding this topic and structuring more advanced searches?

Image that says "where do I start my search? Google!"

Effective Searching in Google

So, let's start a search in Google. Do the activity and place your responses in this Sheet.

  1. Try a Google search for this with the natural language you would automatically use.
  2. Now, try a search for "st. john's wort" AND anxiety AND "African American".
    • You can use Boolean Operators in Google and Google Scholar to help focus your search.
  3. Compare the results.
    • Notice how my results are more academic articles and pages now that I have narrowed my topic some and taken out any unnecessary information.

Check mark icon.Quick Tip: Are there other ways I might want to think about this topic? Is anxiety narrowing my topic too much? Maybe I should try "mental health" instead.

What are some possible issues with using Google?

Image displaying the quote " Search results reflect the values and norms of the search company’s commercial partners and advertisers and often reflect our lowest and most demeaning beliefs, because these ideas circulate so freely and so often that they are normalized and extremely profitable." by  Noble, S. (2018). Algorithms of oppression : How search engines reinforce racism. New York: New York University Press.

  • One constraint with Google and Google Scholar is that they don't have as many filters as academic databases.
  • Keep in mind, the algorithms are built specifically to help companies that Google does business with to get their results to the top (this includes Google Scholar). That means those results that are going to the top are doing so because a company paid to get the keywords they needed to get to the top.

Remember: Google is first and foremost an advertising company.

You can watch this video for more in-depth information on how Google searches. Keep in mind though:

  1. When they use the words "quality results" and "important" who is making the call of what is quality and what is important? There is bias in those decisions.
  2. When they talk about the algorithms that find results, they don't talk about who built those algorithms. Algorithms are as biased as the people who create them.
  3. When they talk about advertisements they aren't including companies paying for access to the keywords they need to get to the top.

Google and Academic Databases

Google, and more appropriately Google Scholar, can be valid places to search for articles and organizations. However, subject specific databases will have more advanced search options and articles. Here are some key differences between databases and Google.

  Library Databases Google Google Scholar
Types of
You Can Find
  • Scholarly journal articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Reviews
  • Theses & dissertations
  • Empirical evidence
  • Popular, commercial, educational websites
  • Organization websites
  • Directories
  • Current news & events
  • Few free journal articles
    & books (many academic publications are not free)
  • Educational websites
  • Theses & dissertations
  • Conference publications
    & presentations
  • Scholarly journal articles
    (but access will be restricted
    to free resources,
    so you will want to set up your Library Links)
Credibility & Review
  • Subject specific books
    and articles
  • Evaluated for accuracy
    and credibility
  • Lack of control allows
    anyone to publish
  • Usually not evaluated for accuracy & credibility
  • Some resources evaluated
    for accuracy & credibility,
    but not through Google,
    so need to verify review process for each publication
  • Database functionalities
    allow users to search
    for & find more relevant results
  • Less ability to search
    for & retrieve precise
  • Not releasing 
    information on
    algorithms, paid
    products can float
    to the top
  • Less ability to search for
    & retrieve precise results
  • Not releasing information
    on algorithms, therefore
    it is not known why
    results float to the top

You can set up Google Scholar to see if you have full text access to articles provided by UNM libraries. Go to settings, search for University of New Mexico in "Library Links" and select it. Once this has been done you will see the "Check Full Text @ UNM" option in your results. A PDF with instructions is also listed below.

Student Success & Engagement Librarian