NHS Logo
John Squire Library
Guide to Using the Web

What is the World Wide Web?

The World Wide Web (the Web, or WWW for short) consists of millions of Web pages, created by Governments, academic and official organisations, commercial enterprises and individuals. It allows access to a vast array of information, including much that is relevant to healthcare. This guide will focus on the use of the Web to retrieve medical and healthcare information. For help with individual topics, highly specialized and specific, contact https://qualitycustomessays.com This site is a collection of useful articles (and not only), it will definitely be useful to you!

The Web is one of a number of protocols used on the Internet (others include e-mail, ftp and telnet). The Internet is accessible to anybody with an Internet connection, but there are also some private networks which use Internet (mainly Web) software and are called Intranets. One of these is the NHSNet, and there is also an Intranet managed by the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust.

The PCs in the Network Room on Level 4 and in the book room alcove on Level 5 in the John Squire Library give access to Web pages on the Trust's Intranet, NHSNet and the Internet. These facilities are provided for work-related purposes only and must comply with North West London Hospitals NHS Trust guidelines on use of networked facilities.

To access the Web, a piece of software called a browser is used. This enables the viewing of Web pages, including graphics. The most popular Web browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The Network PCs in the John Squire Library use Microsoft Internet Explorer, but Netscape Navigator works in a very similar way.

Getting startedup

On any of the Network PCs, double-click on the Internet Explorer Icon icon

This will open the browser and take you to the John Squire Library Website.

 As with most Web pages, underlined text usually indicates a hyperlink to another Web page. Often, graphics are used as hyperlinks. Moving the mouse over a hyperlink changes the mouse pointer to a hand.

At the top of the screen is the toolbar:

'Back' and 'Forward' allow you to navigate through pages you have already seen. 'Stop' will stop a page from loading (in case you change your mind or it is taking too long). 'Refresh' will reload the current page. The 'Home' button will take you back to the John Squire Library Website (in case you get lost!).

'Favorites' (called 'Bookmarks' in Netscape Navigator) allows you to save the address of a page (sometimes known as its URL or Uniform Resource Locator) so that you can visit it another time.

'History' allows you to see what pages have been viewed recently.

Both favourites and history open a separate 'pane' on the left of the screen. To close this, click on the 'X' at the top right of the pane, or click on 'History' or 'Favorites' a second time.

Below the toolbar is the address line which shows the address of the page you are looking at.

Searching for informationup

There are five main ways of using the Web to look for health information:

1. Type an address

If you know the address of a website, type it in on the address line and press enter:

Note: you don't need to type the 'http://' part of a Web address, just the bit after e.g. johnsquirelibrary.org.uk.

This is the most direct way of searching the Web, but it depends on you knowing the address of the site. If you know which site you want, but don’t know the address, it may be possible to search for it using a search engine (see 4 below).

2. Follow interesting 'links' from page to page

Otherwise known as 'surfing'!

This can be time-consuming and you may not always find exactly what you are looking for (but you may find other interesting pages)

3. Use a subject guide

These are usually compiled by researchers or subject specialists and therefore contain fewer links to websites, but potentially higher quality sites. They are primarily designed for browsing sites of interest, and are better suited to broader subjects (e.g 'What resources are available in gastroenterology?').

4. Use a search engine

These use programs called robots to index the Web, so have a much larger coverage (running into millions of pages). However, they may retrieve items of little or no relevance, and of low quality (although they do try to use relevance ranking to arrange results). Search engines often have simple and advanced modes of searching, and it is worth taking the time to investigate the features of each one. When using search engines, the following information may help:

  • To search for a phrase (e.g. "prostate cancer") enclose the phrase in double quotes
  • Word order can sometimes make a difference to the order of results, so use the most important word first
  • Do not use capital letters unless you only require the capitalised form of the word
  • If you use two or more words (e.g. John Squire), most search engines will treat this like a Boolean 'AND' search (so they will search for pages containing John and Squire). Some search engines (e.g. AltaVista) will treat this as an 'OR' search, unless you put a plus in front of the second work (e.g. John +Squire)

Popular examples of search engines include Google, Hotbot and Excite. These, and other search engines are listed on the John Squire Library Website.

We recommend Google as the one of the best search engines.

There are also several search engines known as Metasearch sites, which search several search engines at the same time and rank the results. This way, they aim to cover as much of the Web as possible. However, metasearch sites don't always offer the features of an ordinary search engine.

5. Use a medical or healthcare database

One of the biggest limitations of Web search engines is that they cannot search databases such as Medline or CINAHL. To search a healthcare database on the Web, you need to go to the site directly and use the database's own search interface.

Searching a database such as Medline, CINAHL or Cochrane will potentially produce the best results so it is worth the extra time.

The NHS Evidence service offers access to a number of databases (such as Medline, CINAHL, Cochrane and PsycINFO) and full-text journals in medicine, psychiatry and nursing to NHS employees in the West London area. To access this service, you need to register. Please check with library staff whether you are eligible. You can also access the NHS Evidence website by double-clicking on the links from the John Squire Library Website.

Guides to doing a search on the NHS Evidence service are available from the library, library staff or on the HILO Website.

Other medical and healthcare databases are also available on the Web, and some of these are listed here on our list of electronic databases.

Critical Appraisal of Web Documentsup

Once you have retrieved Web pages from a search, it is worthwhile checking them to make sure not only that they are relevant, but also that they are of good quality. Many pages on the Web are produced by individuals, or companies with particular viewpoints or products to promote. In addition, many pages are out of date or inaccurate.

Here are some suggestions for criteria to check when evaluating a Web page:

1. Authority

Is the person responsible for the page a reputable organisation or individual? Check carefully who is the author of the page (this information may not be immediately obvious and you may need to investigate). Are they an individual, a commercial organisation, a higher education institution?

2. Audience

Who is the Web page aimed at - patients? health care staff? general public? Is the information pitched at a suitable academic level? Is it trying to sell something?

3. Accuracy

Is the information based on factual evidence, or is it opinion. Is the author qualified in the field? What, if any, literature or research is cited?

4. Currency

Is the information up to date? (check to see if there is a date of the last update on the page). Are the sources referred to in the document recent?

Citing Web Pagesup

As with anything you refer to in your work, electronic sources should also be referenced properly to enable people to view the original documents.

A general guide for Web pages (using the Harvard referencing system) is:

Author/editor surname, Initial. (Year) Title [online]. Edition. Place of publication, Publisher. Available from: URL[Accessed date].

For example, the John Squire Library Home page might be referenced as:

John Squire Library. (2011) Library and information services [online]. London, North West London Hospitals NHS Trust. Available from: http://johnsquirelibrary.org.uk [Accessed 14th July 2011].

Further information on citing references (both print and electronic) is available in the Guide to Referencing produced by the John Squire Library, which is also available in print from the Library.

Printing from the Network Room PCsup

Basic Printing

To print a Web page, click on the 'File' menu, then choose 'Print'.

If you wish to print only certain pages, or see how the document will look when printed, click on the 'File' menu and choose 'Print Preview'. You can view the document as it will look when printed and decide which pages to print. To print, click on the 'Print' button on the top left corner. You should now see the following dialog box:

Use the 'Print Range' options to specify which pages you want. To print, click on 'OK'.

To close the Print Preview, click on 'Close' , or press 'Esc' (top left of keyboard).

Laser printing is 5p per page, which should be paid at the Enquiry Desk.

Printing a Web page with frames

Some Web pages use 'frames' to divide the screen into separate sections, which act as separate pages. This can cause problems for printing.

To print from a page with frames, select the section (frame) you want to print by clicking on the section (not on a link though!) you want. Go to the print menu (use 'File' and 'Print' or click on the print icon). When the print dialog box appears, select the method you want to use to print the page from the bottom of the dialog box:

In most cases, you will probably want the selected frame only. Click on 'OK' to print.

The above options will only appear for pages with frames, so if you did not realise that you were looking at a page with frames, you may want to go back and select the appropriate section (frame) before printing (i.e. click on 'Cancel').

Printing from Adobe Acrobat (PDF files)

Many resources such as journal articles, official documents and reports are published in a format called PDF (portable document format) which allows for better quality display and printing.

Opening a PDF file causes a special 'add-on' program called Adobe Acrobat Reader to open to display the special formatting. Note: the Adobe Acrobat Reader is already installed on the Network and Book Room PCs, but if you are using another PC, it may be necessary to download and install it.

To print from a PDF file, you must use the special Adobe toolbar (which appears above the document, below the Internet Explorer toolbar):

Click on the printer icon to print.

Note that many PDF files are very large and may take a while to download, and contain a lot of pages to print.

Useful resources on the Web for health informationup

There are so many resources on the Web, it would be impossible to list them all here. An extensive selection are available on the John Squire Library Website on the 'Useful Links' page.

For search tools such as search engines and subject guides click here to visit the search tools section of the useful links page.

For databases, click here to visit the index of healthcare databases.

Finishing offup

Once you have finished using Internet Explorer, please exit from it by clicking on 'File' then 'Close' and pay for any laser printing at the Enquiry Desk.


Browser A piece of software for viewing Web pages. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are two popular ones


FTP File Transfer Protocol. A system for retrieving files from the Internet


HTML HyperText Mark-up Language. The code used to create Web pages


HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol. The system used to retrieve Web pages


Hyperlink  Piece of text or graphic on a Web page that, when clicked, takes you to another page


Intranet  A private network that uses Internet software e.g. NHSNet



Portable Document Format. A special format used for some Web pages. The Adobe Acrobat Reader program is used to view these.

Robot Software used by search engines to index the Web


URL  Uniform Resource Locator - the 'address' of a Web page


Web Part of the Internet that supports hypertext and graphics



Page Index

Other Pages


A-Z Index | Content disclaimer


Back to top of pageup

© North West London Hospitals NHS Trust 1998-2011. For contact details click here
Last updated 1st September 2011