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Google, Bing and Yahoo are three of the top Internet search engines in 2014. As such, they have a direct impact on everyone's ability to find things. Reference librarians and information specialists are affected by search engines which are linked to other trends such as open access and web 2.0. Search engines are popular because they offer a quick search of the web. Search engines may introduce problems of various kinds in information retrieval, especially in subject-based searching. Some health librarians say that poor recall, consistency and authority control in search engine content make them unacceptable for some queries because but acknowledge that for known items they facilitate quick access and point to popular content.
In 2014, in attempt to improve the relevance of its search results, Google is exploring a combination of personalized results, localization, social networking and semantic search. In other words, two people can search for the same topic using the identical keywords and they may come up with different results.
Searching for information
Medical information is of interest to a variety of user groups including patients and families, researchers, general practitioners and clinicians, as well as specialists. Despite the popularity of search engines, the development of search and access technologies in health and medicine remains particularly challenging. One of the central issues is the diversity of user groups of these services. In particular, they have varying information needs, levels of medical knowledge and language skills. Format, reliability and quality of information varies considerably in the area. A single health record may contain clinical notes, technical pathology data, images and patient-contributed histories, and may be linked to research papers. The importance of health and medical topics to the everyday lives of patients makes the need for efficient and effective retrieval of best evidence especially important. Determining the reliability of information is challenging. As with information retrieval in general, evaluating medical search technologies is a perennial challenging.
Browsing & precision trends
It was inevitable that searching would take on some of the features of web 2.0. Many of the earliest algorithms were based on link popularity, a kind of wisdom of the crowds. Now, information needs in workplaces arise in the context of collaboration and participation. At one end, health teams write collaboratively and participate in trials where comprehensive (high recall) searches are needed (though they may tolerate low precision to begin). At the other end, medical students and nurses work together to retrieve a few good articles. These health professionals do not require high recall but high precision and algorithms coupled with other forms of recommended websites produce acceptable results. As the web scales in size, new requirements emerge. Customized social search - offered by Google health - is likely to become more important as a means of offering targeted searching among a group of sites. These websites will be recommended or compiled by other workers and collaborators or other experts. However, it must be said that with the rise of search tools and social search, there is a concomitant decline in the use of traditional databases. This may be due to the simple truth that high recall and precision in searching is not required for most queries. Health library users, for example, have different requirements for literature reviews and basic information. Precision tolerance of health professionals is directly related to recall. In the Internet age, the notion of complete recall as an indicator of success seems outdated and unrealistic. Exhaustive searching is not always needed. The idea of leading users to an acceptable number of papers has led some librarians to suggest proportional recall (or relative recall) where success is expressed as the number of relevant documents retrieved, over relevant documents required. A pharmacist may need five relevant documents, but her search retrieves only three. Proportional recall is therefore three-fifths, or 60%. This measure, while appealing, is artificial in that few health library users can specify what they really need before searching, let alone how many documents they will need.
Challenges faced by search engines
Data search tools
Science search engines
Health specific search tools