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Information Literacy for Health Professionals


Welcome to our guide on Information Literacy for Health Professionals.

We hope that this LibGuide will help you develop the skills and techniques needed to access accurate and reliable information, evaluate sources, and use that information ethically.

What is information Literacy?

Information Literacy is the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information to solve problems or make decisions.

For health professionals, this means developing skills to search for and find valid reliable scientific research, clinical trials, and patient education materials.


Critical thinking is defined as the mental process of the active and skilful perception, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of collected information through observation, experience and communication leading to a decision for action. In nurse education there is frequent reference to critical thinking and to the significance that it has in daily clinical nursing practice. Nursing clinical instructors know that students face difficulties in making decisions related to clinical practice.

The main critical thinking skills in which health professionals should be exercised during their work are:

  • critical analysis,
  • introductory and concluding justification,
  • valid conclusion,
  • distinguishing of facts and opinions,
  • evaluation of the credibility of information sources,
  • clarification of concepts and recognition of conditions.

Specific behaviours are essentials for enhancing critical thinking.

Health professionals in order to learn and apply critical thinking should develop:

  • independence of thought,
  • objectivity.
  • fairness,
  • perspicacity in personal and social level,
  • humility,
  • spiritual courage,
  • integrity,
  • perseverance,
  • self-confidence,
  • interest for research and curiosity.

Critical thinking is an essential process for the safe, efficient and skilful nursing practice.

UHI Library has many resources to help you develop critical thinking skills. Here is a selection below. Please ask your librarian if you require help.

There are a number of techniques/methods available to develop an effective search.  Consideration has to be given to the following:

  • what to look for - eg books, journal articles,
  • where to look for relevant resources - eg databases, websites.
  • how to construct the search strategy so not to retrieve to much material, whilst targeting relevant materials.

The Library holds some useful materials on how to problem solve finding the information (click on cover image to access item).

Evaluating the science

Scientific research takes time, and in many cases, is measuring specific variables. Exploratory studies usually need confirmation from further research. In addition, the media and other sources may misrepresent "conclusions".

With this in mind, drawing conclusions from only one study and citing new sources in your work can be problematic.

To help you better understand and cite the science:

  • Find the original studies or sources,
  • Scrutinise who conducted the studies and are they biased,
  • Look at the study sample sizes,
  • Distinguish what type of studies were conducted.

Remember: doing research in the sciences isn't about finding the results that best match your thesis; it's about finding the facts.

For more info, check out these titles:

For more info on conducting studies with human subjects, watch this video:

Be aware: some publication types in health science

  • Clinical Trials: From the National Institute of Health, Clinical Trials look at new ways to prevent, detect or treat disease. Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments. The goal of running clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Clinical trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.
  • Meta-analysis: A quantitative analysis that statistically reviews data from previous research done on a particular topic to better draw conclusions about that research and topic. See Meta-Analysis in Medical Research for more information.
  • Randomised Controlled Trial: A clinical trial or study where patients are randomly assigned to different groups. See Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) from the UK Government for more information
  • Systematic Review: A literature review that not only compiles with, but also applies techniques such as statistical analyses to all the pertinent literature on a specific topic. The review attempts to answer a research question and it can be a very valuable source of resources for your work. See Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for more information.

What is Evidence Based Practice?

Utilising the best research and evidence to support decision making or claims made in a field. Also referred to as Evidence Based Medicine when specifically applied to the Medical Sciences.

Learn about scholarly articles

Scholarly articles are usually structured with specific components such as a literature review, methods section and references. To learn more see the interactive Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from NCSU.

When researching, you will encounter many different types of articles. Here are a few examples to be aware of:

  • Empirical study: Article that is structured around original research findings. The purpose is to relay what the researcher has found.
  • Literature review: Article that employs and/or analyses previously published scholarship. Original concepts should be explored, but authors pull from each other's research.
  • Professional trade journal: Publication intended for professionals in a specific field, trade, or industry. Not considered scholarly.
  • Case study: article that describes a new clinical condition or variant of existing one 

What is Peer Review?

Peer Review is a process by which articles are reviewed by other scholars or experts in the field before being accepted for publication. Individual journals will often state they include peer reviews as part of their publishing policies.  Also look out for "Peer Reviewed" filters in databases and the library catalogue to narrow your results to these types of articles.

Evaluating websites of organisations

Use these tips to evaluate the websites of organisations. Keep in mind that these are only a starting point and not guaranteed to be failsafe in every situation.

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Information Literacy Tools

There is a wide range of tools to help you grasp the concepts of information literacy and apply these to your research and study.

EasyBib -  an online information literacy platform that provides tools for citation and notetaking

The Information Literacy User’s Guide: An Open, Online Textbook - comprehensive, if wordy, open access online textbook

From the University of Chicago:

CRAAP test - CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. The tool provides you with a method and list of questions to evaluate the nature and value of the information that you find.

SIFT - SIFT stands for Stop, Investigate, Find and Trace.  This tool allows you to help determine whether online content can be trusted for credible or reliable sources of information

From TURAS (accessible to NHS Scotland staff and healthcare associated students only):

Finding and using knowledge -  This course aims to provide you with support and guidance to continue your professional development in the workplace. Topics covered include : copyright; digital skills; finding, using, and sharing knowledge; getting published; and study skills.

Handling Information and Data Literacy - Explore how to safely find and store information, the best ways to analyse and visualise data and how information and data can be used to drive service improvements

Fake or fact – how to find good evidence [video] - video is part of the digital leadership webinar series.