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Objectives: This study aimed to discover the extent to which medical students can evaluate medical websites, evaluation criteria used, factors affecting their abilities and whether a teaching intervention could rectify problems. Medical students and practitioners are required to evaluate medical information available on the Internet. Most current medical students are familiar with the Internet, but their ability to evaluate material may require improvement. Methods: A class of undergraduate medical students evaluated an unreliable medical website, received a teaching intervention on website evaluation criteria and re-evaluated the same site. This mixed-methods study was conducted at Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman, from September to December 2018. Results: A total of 149 (response rate: 82.3%) students participated. Students spent, on average, 4.69 hours per day on the Internet. No significant correlations were found between demographic indicators and Internet time. On a 10-point Likert scale, students’ scores ranged from 5–6, with no significant differences between the pre- and post-intervention evaluations, except for increased polarisation away from the mean. Qualitative comments indicated an awareness of relevant criteria but an overall inability to critically apply them. Conclusion: The results indicate that one cannot make a blanket statement about medical students’ ability to evaluate medical websites despite their familiarity with technology. Moreover, website evaluation should be viewed primarily from the information perspective and that critical thinking ability may play a major role. Due to these overriding factors, short interventions are unlikely to have an impact, and other educational strategies should be developed. These are necessary to ensure that medical students can function independently as life-long learners and medical professionals.
Keywords: Internet; Medical Students; Oman.
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