[Jump to start of article]

Home > Training > InfoSkills

InfoSkills. A resource for ALL Staff

wikipedia logo with cross through it
Referencing logo
Books logo
NHS Athens logo
Journal link logo

Whether you’re a student just starting in your career in the NHS or you're a longstanding member of staff, you will, at some point in your time at the Trust need access to books, journal articles, healthcare research or useful web resources to help with patient care, research or your professional development.

This section of our website is dedicated to helping you make the most of the library and knowledge service provided at Basildon, Colchester and Harlow. It's been designed for you to dip in and out, depending what your specific need is at the time.

As NHS staff you need to be able to find and use the best quality resources and research. In many cases, patient care and safety will depend on it.  InfoSkills as a whole gives a very clear picture of what resources are available to you. It will also help equip you with the ability to find, select, evaluate, use and communicate the information you find.

How do I find the books I need?

How do I evaluate information?

What is the Cochrane Library?

What are Information Skills?

Please be aware this page is currently being updated.

Information skills, or information literacy as it is sometimes called, means having the ability to "know when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” (CILIP, 2004)

As a health professional, you will be required to have an understanding of:

The Open University's Being Digital skills page

Being digital is a collection of short, easy to follow activities. They cover the skills we all need to be effective online, whether it’s searching efficiently, critically evaluating information, communicating and sharing online, or selecting the right online tool for your needs.

Royal College of Nursing- Information Literacy Competencies

This document, Finding, using and managing information: Nursing, midwifery, health and social care information literacy competences, published by the RCN in 2011, highlights the importance of staff being able to handle information effectively, by maintaining standards in their own practice, and by supporting the informed patient.

In the Principles of Nursing Practice, the RCN highlighted that: ‘Nurses and nursing staff [must] have up to date knowledge and skills, and use these with intelligence, insight and understanding in line with the needs of each individual in their care.’

The RCN’s Integrated core career and competence framework for registered nurses brings together dimensions of the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) which are the most relevant to nursing and midwifery. Information literacy is a key dimension of this framework.

These competences can be used across the board by nurses, midwives, and health care support workers who need to develop skills to support their practice. These information literacy competences have been mapped to the Skills for Health competences and KSF dimensions.


How do I find the books I need?

ELMS - Library Catalogue

This is a direct link to the library catalogue which has details of our stock and that of 25 other health libraries in the region. You need to be a library member to take books out. When you have your library ID (the number on the back of your membership card) and your PIN, you can log in to reserve, request and renew items.

How to search the ELMS Library Catalogue

This short demonstration will guide you through the process of searching the ELMS Library Catalogue to locate books and other library resources.

ELMS User Guide

A printable leaflet on finding, reserving, requesting and renewing items using the Library Catalogue ELMS.


How do I get an NHS Athens account?

The only way you can access all the electronic resources available to NHS staff, such as e-books, e-journals and the major healthcare databases such as CINAHL and MEDLINE is by logging into them with an NHS Athens user name and password.

What is NHS Athens?

A printable leaflet explaining what NHS Athens is and how to register for an account.

Registering for an NHS Athens Account

This short presentation takes you step by step through the process of registering for an NHS Athens account and also that of resetting your password should you forget it.

NHS Athens Online Registration Form

Register for NHS Athens here

How do I search for journal articles?


If you are studying, undertaking CPD or searching for evidence to back up good practice, searching for articles will be an essential skill.

This section provides tools to enable you to search for articles using the databases and resources provided by the NHS.

You will need an NHS Athens account which will enable you to access all the NHS online journals and databases. You can register for an account in the previous section.

An introduction to scholarly articles and healthcare databases

This is a basic introduction enabling you to understand what scholarly articles are and how to recognise them, why you need to use them, and where to find them. It also gives you information about the healthcare databases provided by the NHS including the subjects they each cover.

Developing a search strategy

Searching for articles can be time consuming. It's always best to think about your search first and plan how you're going to go about it. This wil save you time in the long run and help make your search more focussed and efficient. Watch this short video from Edghill University to find out how.

Search tips for using the NHS Healthcare Databases (NICE Evidence)

A really useful series of videos created by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) about how to search NHS databses for aritcles. If you don't use any of the other resources in this section at least use this one!

Feauring: How to carry out a basic search, using the thesaurus, applying limits, rerunning searches, saving search results and creating alerts.

Literature searching using NHS databases

A short leaflet we have produced that you can print out giving you the key steps to searching for articles using NICE Evidence.

Health Education England Literature Searching online course

This online course teaches you the key concepts and skills for literature searching. It includes 3 modules:

Tips on using the Thesaurus (Subject Headings)

There are two ways of searching the databases. Keyword searching, where you type in and search for actual words which appear in the text or thesaurus searching, also called subject heading searching or sometimes MeSH (medical subject headings). This way of searching is looking for the words with which an article is indexed on the database. The video explains it really well!

Using Boolean (AND/OR)

You may have heard of boolean searching before - using the terms AND to narrow your search results and OR to expand your results. This video gives you information on how to use boolean effectively to find the most relevent results.


Why can't I just use Google or Wikipedia?

As NHS staff you need to be able to find and use the best quality, authoritative, resources and evidence. In many cases, patient care and safety will depend on it. Despite the millions of "hits" you can get on Google for any subject, only about 30/40% of quality healthcare information is freely available. The majority of peer reviewed journal articles and medical/healthcare information and research is only available through subscription based resources, many of which the NHS has access to.

Wikipedia, although it has it's place in finding information, can't be viewed as a totally reliable source as anyone can edit any item. Therefore it's possible that someone with no medical knowledge has altered that particular subject that you want to look at. I'm sure you can see the potential danger if you were to use that information only when caring for your patient!

Why can't I just Google?

This video from La Trobe University very clearly illustrates the pitfalls of relying on Google.


BMJ Editorial: Citing Wikipedia-Don't do it!

This British Medical Journal Editorial from March 2014, clearly outlines the reasons why Wikipedia shouldn't be cited in health science articles.It refers to a recent study which higlights the problem.

How do I evaluate information?

"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge." - John Naisbitt

Information is everywhere. But how do we know what is worth knowing? Not everything that we find is worth reading, including much of what is available on the internet. We need to be able to think critically and use judgment in deciding what is useful, relevant and valuable, especially when it involves patient care. The resources in this section can help you develop thinking strategies for evaluating information, wherever it comes from.

Evaluating Information

A short presentation from Leeds University about evaluating information and thinking critically.

Bill learns what to trust.

A very short, light hearted podcast from the Open University

Evaluating websites using the C.R.A.A.P. test

The CRAAP acronym stands for...

This video from Johnson & Wales University in the US takes you through these important criteria needed for evaluating information.

Health on the Net Foundation URL

"The Health On the Net Foundation (HON) promotes and guides the deployment of useful and reliable online health information, and its appropriate and efficient use. Created in 1995, HON is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations."

HON includes the HONcode, standards for health information on the internet, HONsearch, a specialized medical search engine and many more resources. Definitely worth a look.


What is the Cochrane Library?

A short overview of the Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library Booklet

A detailed step by step guide which explains what the Cochrane Library is, what it contains and how to search it successfully.

The Cochrane Library

A quick and clear guide to conducting an effective search in The Cochrane Library from Edgehill University.

What is referencing and why should I do it?

When you are writing a piece of work and include another person’s words or ideas you must reference them. This means that you must include information about all the sources consulted, from books to websites, in your work. This should be in the body of your work (in-text citations) and as a reference list or bibliography at the end. Another way to understand referencing is to think of an analogy - when you buy designer clothes there is usually a label attached to say who made them; this brand identity is like an author of a book. Plagiarism is when you don’t do this, either deliberately or inadvertently. If you don’t reference you are effectively presenting someone else’s ideas as your own and this is cheating. Plagiarism is treated very seriously and usually results in disciplinary action. The resources in this section will explain a bit more about both concepts.

Anglia Ruskin's Harvard Referencing guide