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Research Guides@Tufts

PBL Research Guide


This research guide was created for PBL students to help find information using resources from the library. In this guide, the search process is outlined and resources are grouped by the type of question being asked.

Typically, background questions are addressed during the first semester of PBL, and foreground questions are introduced in the second semester.

The Search Process

Importance of Info Resources

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to find information on your topic, especially since so much is available online. The big questions that are frequently asked are: where do you begin searching? And, why use library resources when there’s Google?

Google is a helpful search tool, but not all research questions are best answered by using search engines. Here’s when you might want to use Google:

  • To find the correct spelling of a term
  • To find synonyms
  • To find information from reliable web sources:
    • Academic institutions (.edu)
    • Government websites (.gov)
    • Medical associations (Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus, etc.) (.org)

Keep in mind that Google is just the tip of the iceberg for finding information. It doesn’t provide access to the majority of information found in textbooks, journal articles, and other licensed resources that are available through the library. You must also be careful about the validity of what you find through web resources.

Medical information that can be found online is sometimes consumer oriented and also misleading (See the New York Times’ article, A Prescription for Fear, about WebMD). As medical students, it’s important to learn how to use authoritative and trustworthy resources that health professionals rely upon.

Remember that medical information is in a constant state of flux. Learning how to use these resources and tools is an important part of lifelong learning. By understanding how to navigate through textbooks, article databases, and other research tools, it will help to keep your medical knowledge current throughout your career.

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