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In praise of books

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 15 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1435
  1. Reinhard Wentz, Imperial College Library Service
  1. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London

    Occupied as we are with electronic databases, information on the internet, and full text journals on the web, do we not sometimes overlook the value of information in current textbooks?

    I have gone through my file of reference inquiries over the past six months and looked at those questions where clients insisted on a search on Medline, other electronic databases, or the internet. I would think that more than 60% of the questions were actually so general and unspecific that relevant information could have been found with ease in a current textbook or other printed source.

    Typically, articles on Medline deal with specialised aspects of a problem

    I refer to questions such as “Where do I find everything [sometimes the word “something” is used] on: diabetes in pregnancy? sectioning under the Mental Health Act? how to write a research paper? crisis intervention? screening for prostate cancer? hepatitis C? the principles of evidence based medicine? preceptorship? priority setting in …

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