Epidemiology is a study discipline that is very reliant on statistics. This comes from the fact that it is actually the study of disease patterns across generalized populations described using statistical tools. Therefore, the most useful tool on a website with disease statistics is its search tool. It gives a user the ability to search for content having statistics. In addition, the study of epidemiology calls for the observation of very specific geographical locations when determining the prevalence of the disease or the potential for outbreaks. On the WHO website, the most useful tool is the search box. The search function on the website allows for simple keyword search and for advanced search, which increases the accuracy of search results. This tool works by giving search options based on Boolean operators and language. In addition, it allows for search based on the file format, domain, and sorting.
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The simple keyword search on the site is suited for the general researcher who wants to use well-understood key terms (Mather, 2012). This tool is good for looking for general information relating to any subject on epidemiology that is present on the website. Search using the Boolean operators makes it possible for the user to search for information using delimiting operators. In the first case, it allows for the searching of information using a phrase. A test search using the phrase “HIV AIDS in Africa” yielded 7300 results from the field titled, “with all the words” (WHO, 2010). After adding the term, “Sub Saharan” to this search in the “exact phrase” field, the search results reduced to 136 (WHO, 2010). It is possible to narrow the results further by filling in the fields titled “with at least one of the words” and “without the words” (WHO, 2010). These search options use a keyword search to narrow down the search results to make them as exact as possible for any user.
Apart from a keyword search, the website has other search options based on file type, which enables a user to search the site for documents in pdf or in spreadsheet format. These formats tend to yield results with better statistics compared to general searches with website-based results. A user can also search for content written in eight languages, including Chinese and Arabic (WHO, 2010). This option is very useful for multilingual users who need information in a language other than English, which is the primary language for the website. In addition to these options, a user can search the site for information retrieved from specific domains. The advantage of this option is that it makes it possible for a user to choose from domains known to have academic or organizational information, as opposed to commercially oriented domains. The advanced search tool also allows users to sort the result either by date or by relevance. When sorted by date, the results show the most recent documents first. On the other hand, sorting the results by relevance brings up results that best match the keywords.
Locating information relevant to epidemiology requires the use of advanced search algorithms to increase the accuracy of the results (Mather, 2012). Therefore, the most useful feature on the website is the advanced search function. The ability to define search queries narrowly leads to highly specific results. This is important today because of the vast quantity of information online. Using the internet as a source of information necessitates the use of efficient information retrieval tools. The advanced search tool on the WHO website fits this role well.
Mather. (2012). Print & Digital Audience Pricing Strategies. Roswell, GA: Mather Economics.
WHO. (2010). Advanced Search. Web.