15 April 2011

Managing Citations: I Never Leave Home Without Zotero

I remember the thing I dreaded the most about authoring papers/articles was not the research, was not the writing but was the dreaded citations!  This of course was before any sort of reasonably priced 'citation software' and before I happened across the open-source (meaning free!) citation manager called Zotero.

I had recently moved from using IE to Firefox as my browser and when doing some research on the website of  the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University I came across this funny thing called Zotero which claimed it could compile my citations for me and include them in my work with just clicks of a button.  Not only that, it was a) Free and b) transferable to any computer using Firefox.  From that time I've been a firm supporter if not only because it's open-source unlike RefWorks or EndNote etc.

 The major benefits of Zotero are:

1) It's as simple as clicking a button on your address bar (folder when there's a list of articles and a little page for an individual article (book for a book etc.)

2) There is an increasing number of participating sites/companies that are compatible with Zotero (see here for the full list)

3) They have a Word Plugin, allowing you to cite right in your document and instantly creates a 'Works Cited/Bibliography' for you with a click of a button.

4) You can choose from a list of various citation styles and Zotero does the work for you!  No more scrambling to find the latest version of APA style.  Some 'Institutional' citation styles are even included such as my one of my Alma maters the 'Harvard - adapted for Leeds Met' style was already included so it was simply a matter of clicking on the button!

I could rave on and on about how wonderful this tool is, about how much time and hassle it has saved me over the years, about how it continues to get better and better, about how I think George Mason U and the people at CHNM are my version of rock-stars...but I'll leave it to my readers to take it for a test run and browse around all it's functionality.  Working in health care, time can often be a luxury, so why waste it on tedious tasks like citations especially when someone has done the legwork for free!   If you want some help getting started make sure to go see your Library/Librarian for more info and help.

04 April 2011

All Information is Not Created Equally: Breaking Down Levels of Evidence

I'm sure we all know that some information is better than others:  If you don't, go tell your Librarian that information you find on Google is good enough and you'll be sure to get a good breakdown of the levels of information quality.

 Don't get me wrong I love Google, I certainly use it myself as a starting point, but in the health field I certainly wouldn't end there.  Even within the Library the information resources are not created equally.  For example, the ever popular UptoDate is an excellent resource but many users may not realize it's classified as 'Expert Opinion' and therefore on the bottom of the Levels of Evidence Pyramid (as one would imagine Google doesn't make the cut onto the pyramid at all).  Knowing this: do you treat you patient with information sourced from a combination of a Google search and perhaps an 'expert opinion' resource?  Unfortunately this is all too often the case.  Of course the expert opinion resources are still excellent and created for use when time is at a premium but your Librarian can also help point you quickly in the direction of other resources that offer you a more comprehensive knowledge for your patient care.  These resources include the Cochrane Databases or Evidence Based Medicine Reviews, the TRIP database and more!  

Despite how it may sometimes feel, healthcare is not the business to be trying to turnover results as quick as can be:  patients need your expertise and your expertise needs to be based in high quality information.  Medical Librarians and Libraries are there to help you acquire this quickly from their resources and will most often offer training on these resources as well as evidence based medicine, level of evidence etc.  Contact them for further help, making your work easier and of better quality!