Temporal search persistence, certainty, and source preference in dentistry: Results from the National Dental PBRN

PLoS One. 2022 May 17;17(5):e0264913. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264913. eCollection 2022.


Objectives: The primary goal of this paper was to investigate an old question in a new way: what are the search patterns that professionals demonstrate when faced with a specific knowledge gap?

Methods: We examine data from a cascading survey question design that captures details about searching for information to answer a self-nominated clinical question from 1027 dental professionals enrolled in the National Dental Practice Based Research Network. Descriptive and conditional logistical regression analysis techniques were used.

Results: 61% of professionals in our sample choose informal sources of information, with only about 11% looking to formal peer reviewed evidence. The numbers of professionals turning to general internet searches is more than twice as high as any other information source other than professional colleagues. Dentists with advanced training and specialists are significantly more likely to consult peer-reviewed sources, and women in the sample were more likely than men to continue searching past a first source.

Conclusions: Speed/availability of information may be just as, or in some cases, more important than credibility for professionals' search behavior. Additionally, our findings suggest that more insights are needed into how various categories of professionals within a profession seek information differently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Dentistry
  • Dentists
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Peer Review*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grants and funding

This study was funded by grants U19-DE-22516 and U19-DE-28717 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (JM), https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.