A guide for occupational therapists starting out on the web.
The web is made up of millions of pages of information stored on many interlinked computers around the world. This page, for example, was designed on my iMac at home, but the version you are seeing is stored for me by a company that is linked to the web through a "server" computer -- you're not actually accessing my own computer. It's like a network of libraries -- the author writes a book, printed copies are sent to libraries and people with library access can view the document either in their own library or by requesting it from another library. Search engines and web directories are like the library catalogues.
There are various ways to find a useful web page, which might include:
The address of a site looks something like this... http://www.otdirect.co.uk. The http:// bit at the beginning means "hypertext transfer protocol" -- and just tells your web browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) that you're looking for a web page. You don't really need to take any notice of this because if somebody tells you the address of the page, i.e. www.adbusters.com most browsers won't need you to type "http://" before the www bit. To go to the page, you have to type the address in the "address bar" on your web browser. It should look something like this:
You can see the address of the site (http://www.otdirect.co.uk) in the "address bar" just above the OTdirect logo. If you have found the address of the a web site, such as the College of Occupational Therapists site -- "http://www.cot.co.uk" -- just type it into the address bar and hit the "return" key, and you should be taken to the site. You can go back to the previous page you were looking at by pressing the "Back" button (you can see this on the left, just above the address bar).
If you don't know the address of the site you want to visit, you'll need to use a "search engine".
There are two types of search engines: computer-built databases and human-edited directories. Some search engines combine the two. The computer-built search engines continually trawl the net, finding sites and building up a database of sites with the keywords that are hidden within the web pages. The human-edited directories are more like the Yellow Pages. The directory editors decide which sites to include and list them under appropriate category headings.
Google [http://www.google.co.uk] is an example of a computer-built database (probably the best -- it's fast to load, isn't cluttered with adverts and usually comes up with the goods). The Open Directory [http://www.dmoz.org] is probably the best example of a human-edited web directory. Each category has an editor who decides which appropriate web sites to include. Each category has subcategories, and so on. Have a look at the OT section, for example: http://dmoz.org/Health/Professions/Occupational_Therapist/. You can see from the address that the top category is "Health", within that there are "Professions" and within that there is "Occupational Therapist". There are links at the top of the page to take you back to the "health/Professions" category, from which you can browse other health professions.
Many search engines have a UK-based version as well as versions based in other countries. It is generally better to use the Uk version, as you're more likely to find results that are specific to the UK, but you might want to widen your search by using an international version. Most search engines will give you a choice of searching only UK sites or searching the whole web. Try them both until you get a feel for it. Try, for example http://www.google.co.uk (Google's UK version) and http://www.google.com (Google's international version).
When you go to a search engine like Google, you type in the word you want to search for and press "search"... but the choice of words is very important. If you search for "Parkinson's", you'll miss all the sites that mention "Parkinsonism". Ideally, when you do a search you want a small number of highly relevant results -- you don't want to scroll through many pages of results before you find a relevant site. The search engine should tell you how many results it has found. Suppose you are searching for occupational therapy training events -- study days, etc. If you type in "occupational therapy training", you'll end up with countless web sites of universities and medical schools offering undergraduate programmes. Try instead "occupational therapy training listing" or "occupational therapy training events" and you should get far fewer, but much more relevant, results. The rule is, to quote Lenin, "Better Fewer, But Better".
Results are improved even further if you put phrases in quotation marks. For instance "multiple sclerosis" (in quotes) will get better results than multiple sclerosis. You can refine it further by typing "multiple sclerosis" spasticity -- this will find all the pages with both the phrase "multiple sclerosis" and the word "spasticity". You could narrow it down further by trying:
"multiple sclerosis" spasticity "occupational therapy"
This will find only pages with the phrases "multiple sclerosis" and "occupational therapy" and the word "spasticity".
You can eliminate irrelevant pages from the results by using a minus sign in front of words you don't want to find in a page. For example, you might want to search for pages about Bass beer, but not pages about bass fishing or bass guitars. Try:
bass beer -fish -guitar.
This should find pages with the words "bass" and "beer" but not the words "fish" and "guitar". You would want to avoid putting bass beer in quotes because the words don't necessarily appear right next to each other if someone is writing about "a range of fine beers made by Bass".
Sometimes you may wish to search for a word that has alternate spellings such as Parkinsons/Parkinson's (with and without the apostrophe) or Physiotherapy/Physical Therapy. On search engines such as Google you can use the 'OR' command like this:
"Occupational Therapy" (Parkinsons OR Parkinson's).
You need to put the alternatives in brackets. This will give you all the pages that contain Occupational Therapy and Parkinsons and those which contain Occupational Therapy and Parkinson's If you're familiar with Boolean algebra, this is pretty much the same. If you're not, don't worry. Here's another:
spasticity (Physiotherapy OR "Physical therapy") (note that Physical Therapy is in quotes because it's a complete phrase).
You can see that this will return all the pages that include both spasticity and physical therapy and those which contain spasticity and physiotherapy. You can play around with this and do more sophisticated searches, like:
"Occupational Therapy" (Parkinsons OR Parkinson's OR Parkinsonism)
Some search engines support the use of part-word wildcards so that you can search for osteo*, which will show up osteoarthritis, osteophytes and any number of words beginning with 'osteo'. Google doesn't support this but does have whole word wildcards. Try:
"multiple * extososes"
You should get results for multiple congenital extososes, multiple hereditary extososes and so on.
Google also you to search only specific parts of a web page such as the title and description but not the full text. This is useful if you want a page that is specifically dedicated to your subject and not ones that just mention it in passing. This is useful if there are a lot of pages that mention your subject but only in a superficial way. For example: to find pages dedicated specifically to sensory integration, type:
intitle: "sensory integration"
These work just like the other search engines, but are restricted to particular categories of sites. MedExplorer, for instance, is a medical search engine. You can find more of them on OTdirect's Health Links page. There are also sites that search only for journal articles -- such as BUBL. Try our Journals page for more of these.
A word of warning
There's an awful lot of rubbish on the web -- anyone can start a web page and there's no editorial control. You need to exercise discretion about what you find, and be sceptical about the quality of what's out there. If the web site is run by a reputable organisation. that's a good start. Some sites subscribe to quality standards such as the Health on the Net code, but you still need to exercise caution. You should also be wary about giving personal details over the net, but for the most part, you should find the web an enjoyable and easy way to track down vast amounts of information.
If you need more help in getting to grips with the web, try:
If you have any comments, corrections or suggestions about this page, please email me.
Author: Mike Griffin PGDip OT, SROT
Last updated: 7th January 2003
© Copyright OTdirect.co.uk 2000-2006. All material is subject to copyright. Feel free to use it for any non-profit purposes, within your professional judgement, but commercial use is forbidden without permission.
This site is designed on computers powered only by clean, green electricity from Good Energy (www.good-energy.co.uk).