Factors associated with successful answering of clinical questions using an information retrieval system

Bull Med Libr Assoc. 2000 Oct;88(4):323-31.


Objectives: Despite the growing use of online databases by clinicians, there has been very little research documenting how effectively they are used. This study assessed the ability of medical and nurse-practitioner students to answer clinical questions using an information retrieval system. It also attempted to identify the demographic, experience, cognitive, personality, search mechanics, and user-satisfaction factors associated with successful use of a retrieval system.

Methods: Twenty-nine students completed questionnaires of clinical and computer experience as well as tests of cognitive abilities and personality type. They were then administered three clinical questions to answer in a medical library setting using the MEDLINE database and electronic and print full-text resources.

Results: Medical students were able to answer more questions correctly than nurse-practitioner students before and after searching, but both had comparable improvements in the number of correct questions before and after searching. Successful ability to answer questions was also associated with having experience in literature searching and higher standardized test-score percentiles.

Conclusions: Medical and nurse-practitioner students obtained comparable benefits in the ability to answer clinical questions from use of the information retrieval system. Future research must examine strategies that improve successful search and retrieval of clinical questions posed by clinicians in practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude
  • Clinical Medicine*
  • Cognition
  • Computer Literacy
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Nurse Practitioners / education*
  • Personality
  • Students, Medical*
  • Students, Nursing*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires