Although many critical issues face both faculty and students in higher education, few of these issues are as critical to academic success as the interconnected skills and capabilities required to search for and retrieve, as well as evaluate and synthesize various types of information, a process more commonly known as information literacy [1, 2]. Educated consumers of information need the technological skills to navigate library resources, online search engines, and metasearch tools. The spectrum of information literacy, however, extends beyond the paradigm of skills-based computer literacy  and simple find-and-report interpretations of online searches. Whether it is freely available on the Web or accessible through restricted databases, online information from a vast array of sources must be scrutinized for credibility, reliability, timeliness, and applicability for performing a specific task or solving a problem. Additionally, evaluative skills are needed to interpret data from multiple sources, including printed text, statistics, symbolic representations, maps, charts, tables, and still and moving images .
The emerging networked technologies comprising the participatory Web, also known as Web 2.0, have profoundly changed the way information is produced, distributed, and consumed [5–8]. Wikis, blogs, pod casts, video sharing, social networking sites, and other online applications offer innumerable opportunities for user generated content (UGC) and information sharing through what has been called an "architecture of participation" . Although these new participatory technologies provide rich opportunities for information sharing, they also pose new challenges for information seekers. Torrents of unfiltered information are uploaded to, and downloaded from, the Internet every day. In addition, users generate, remix, repurpose, store, and then share this digital information. As a result, Web users must continually balance the need for easy to find, readily available, reliable information and to avoid questionable, inaccurate, incomplete or deceptive online information.
The proliferation of online data has precipitated the need for more curricular activities that teach and require students to effectively search for and evaluate information in higher education and health care settings. Few studies have examined how effectively university-level students evaluate and use online information. A recent university-led study found the majority of participants began their searches with, and preferred using, Google as compared to the instructor-recommended databases for information problem solving . A study by this group found a majority (54%) of dental students (n = 78) in a biomedical science course were unable to locate primary research and evidence-based references, despite specific and detailed instructor directions to use PubMed . These studies demonstrate that online searches of university-level students are primarily facilitated through the use of Google and not through other evidence-based research tools [11–17]. The overwhelming popularity of Google as the first and primary search tool preferred by university students inevitably raises the question: "Why not just Google it?" To date, researchers have not provided an adequate response to this question.
Based upon this information, the current study evaluated the information literacy skills of first-year dental students. This study also surveyed the preferred methods of online information searches and database usage of these students. Finally, demographic characteristics were examined, including age, sex, or race which might correlate with the use of particular search engines or the need for improved information literacy competencies. These findings would then be incorporated into the curriculum by means of an intervention designed by the University Health Sciences Librarian. The goal of this intervention would be to improve student performance, address any questions regarding the quality and reliability of online information sources, and to provide specific instructions for finding evidence-based materials for subsequent use.