OT 7231 Critical Inquiry for OT

Resources for students for learning the knowledge and skills needed for critiquing research studies in order to be critical consumers of research and evidence based practitioners

PubMed search

Getting Started

Start with:

Then try any of the following:

Also check out:

Health Sciences Research Toolkit

Resources, tips, and guidelines to help you through the research process.

Finding Information

Library Research Checklist
Helpful hints for starting a library research project.

Search Strategy Checklist and Tips
Helpful tips on how to develop a literature search strategy.

Boolean Operators: A Cheat Sheet
Boolean logic (named after mathematician George Boole) is a system of logic to designed to yield optimal search results. The Boolean operators, AND, OR, and NOT, help you construct a logical search. Boolean operators act on sets -- groups of records containing a particular word or concept.

Literature Searching
Overview and tips on how to conduct a literature search.

Health Statistics and Data Sources
Health related statistics and data sources are increasingly available on the Internet. They can be found already neatly packaged, or as raw data sets. The most reliable data comes from governmental sources or health-care professional organizations.

Evaluating Information

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences
Understand what are considered primary, secondary and tertiary sources.

Scholarly vs Popular Journals/Magazines
How to determine what are scholarly journals vs trade or popular magazines.

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Journals
A “peer-reviewed” or “refereed” journal is one in which the articles it contains have been examined by people with credentials in the article’s field of study before it is published.

Evaluating Web  Resources
When searching for information on the Internet, it is important to be aware of the quality of the information being presented to you. Keep in mind that anyone can host a web site. To be sure that the information you are looking at is credible and of value.

Conducting Research Through An Anti-Racism Lens
This guide is for students, staff, and faculty who are incorporating an anti-racist lens at all stages of the research life cycle.

Understanding Research Study Designs
Covers case studies, randomized control trials, systematic reviews and meta-analysis.

Qualitative Studies
Overview of what is a qualitative study and how to recognize, find and critically appraise.

Writing and Publishing

Citing Sources
Citations are brief notations in the body of a research paper that point to a source in the bibliography or references cited section.

Structure of a Research Paper
Reports of research studies usually follow the IMRAD format. IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, [and] Discussion) is a mnemonic for the major components of a scientific paper. These elements are included in the overall structure of a research paper.

Top Reasons for Non-Acceptance of Scientific Articles
Avoid these mistakes when preparing an article for publication.

Annotated Bibliographies
Guide on how to create an annotated bibliography.

Writing guides, Style Manuals and the Publication Process in the Biological and Health Sciences
Style manuals, citation guides as well as information on public access policies, copyright and plagiarism.

Evidence Based Practice in OT

5 Steps of Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)

Use the five "A's" to remember the critical steps of the evidence-based practice process:

  • Ask the answerable clinical question.
  • Acquire the most relevant and best evidence to answer the question.
  • Appraise the evidence critically for validity, relevance, and applicability.
  • Apply the evidence, along with critical expertise and the patient's preferences and values.
  • Assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the previous four steps and seek ways to improve one's ability to ask, acquire, appraise, and apply.

Asking the question

The "Well-Built Clinical Question": PICO(T)

The first part of any research is identifying the question you want to answer. This is very important because the more you understand your question the more likely you are to obtain relevant results. The process of formulating a good search question is known in evidence-based health care as “the well-built clinical question.”* One way of building your search question starts with the patient and is known as PICO, which stands for:

  • P - Patient or Population or Problem/Disease
    Who or what is the question about? This may include the primary problem, disease, or circumstances. Sometimes the sex, age, or race of a patient might be relevant to the diagnosis or treatment of a disease.
  • I - Intervention, Exposure or Prognostic Factor
    What main intervention/treatment are you considering? What factor may influence the prognosis of the patient, such as age or comorbidities? What was the patient exposed to?
  • C - Comparison(s) or Control
    What alternative intervention are you considering, if any? For example, you might be comparing the efficacy of two medications or the accuracy of two diagnostic tests. Your clinical question does not have to always have a specific comparison.
  • O - Outcome(s)
    What are you trying to accomplish or measure? What are you trying to do for the patient or problem? Examples might include managing a disease, alleviating symptoms, preventing a disease, etc.
  • T - Timeframe (optional)
    What's the amount of time that you'll be observing the patient or problem. For example, improving rates of hospital-acquired infections over the course of a year.

Also consider the two Ts

Type of question
  • Diagnosis: How to select and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Therapy: How to select treatments to offer patients that do more good than harm and that are worth the efforts and costs of using them
  • Prognosis: How to estimate the patient’s likely clinical course over time and anticipate likely complications of disease
  • Etiology: How to identify causes for disease, including genetics
Type of study

For more information on the next two As — Acquiring the Evidence (literature searching) and Appraising the Evidence — go to the complete Evidence Based Practice LibGuide.


eBooks on research: literature searching, critical appraisal, analysis

Video Tutorials


Research Process in the Health Sciences (35:37 min): Overview of the scientific research process in the health sciences. Follows the seven steps: defining the problem, reviewing the literature, formulating a hypothesis, choosing a research design, collecting data, analyzing the data and interpretation and report writing. Includes a set of additional readings and library resources.

Research Study Designs in the Health Sciences (29:36 min): An overview of research study designs used by health sciences researchers. Covers case reports/case series, case control studies, cohort studies, correlational studies, cross-sectional studies, experimental studies (including randomized control trials), systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Additional readings and library resources are also provided.

Literature Searching In Ethics/Bioethics (52:07 min). An overview of what is a literature search, how to develop a research question, create a search strategy and some database demos. This video uses ethics/bioethics topics for examples, but the overlying principles are the same for any health sciences discipline.

Database searching

Citation Management

Citation managers are software packages used to create personalized databases of citation information and notes. They allow you to:

  • import and organize citation information from article indexes and other sources,
  • save pdfs and other documents,
  • format citations for your papers and bibliographies using APA, MLA, Chicago, Vancouver, and many other styles, and
  • include your own notes.

Choose a citation manager

Citation manager experts at the University Libraries support EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, and BibTex.

Explore the citation managers below, contact us for support, or attend a workshop.

EndNote and EndNote Online

EndNote Desktop is a powerful citation manager that will allow you to organize large quantities of references for many projects. EndNote Online works either in conjunction with EndNote Desktop for collaboration or as a free stand-alone tool.

EndNote support


Zotero support


Mendeley is in the process of redesigning their software and there are now two versions of the program. Users of both programs are experiencing issues with compatibility and stability. We recognize that there are many Mendeley users on campus and provide these guides and one-on-one consultations for support. Because of all the known issues with Mendeley Desktop, Mendeley Reference Manager, and Mendeley Cite, we do not currently recommend using Mendeley as a citation manager if you are just getting started. Instead, we recommend Zotero as a free option that is similar in functionality and much more stable.

Mendeley support

APA Style

APA Style (American Psychological Association)  

Last Updated: Feb 5, 2024 12:58 PM