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Scientific Research

Evidence-Based Practice Tools

In this page, we try to narrow the gap between research and practice in physcial therapy profession by providing our clinicians with most common search techniques that they can apply almost to any database.

How to search Database

  1. Use the subject headings for each database in addition to free text. In Cinahl the subject headings are called Cinahl Headings; in Medline they are MeSH; in AMED they are Subjects and in SportDiscus they are Thesaurus. They are all found on the top left navigation bar.
  2. If using subject headings to search Cinahl and Medline offer subheadings to more precisely define a topic e.g. in Medline, Physical Therapies Modalities has a range of subheadings including adverse effects, economics, history, and veterinary and many more
  3. In Cinahl and Medline, subject headings can be limited to Major Headings only. This means that the concept described by the term is important to the reference and you will retrieve only the articles where the subject is significant.
  4. Combining terms
    ANDwill return items with both/all the terms or subject headings
    OR will return items that have at least one of the terms or subject headings
    NOT will exclude any item that has a particular term or subject heading. Use with caution as by excluding a term you may lose a relevant reference.
  5. Truncation
    eg physiotherap* will find {physiotherapy, physiotherapist, physiotherapists, physiotherapeutic}. It can also be used to replace an entire word in a phrase juvenile * arthritis.
  6. Wildcards
    ?allows variation of a single letter eg wom?n will find women or woman
    # replace several letters or none eg lymph#edema will find lymphoedema or lymphedema
  7. Proximity

Double inverted commas "Physical therapy" will retrieve a phrase

Near - N: eg N5 will find the terms within five words of each other. The count does not include word on the stop word list eg are, the, because, that
eg: Multidisciplinary N5 physiotherapy will find '...physiotherapy as part of a multidisciplinary...' and '...Physiotherapy or multidisciplinary treatment...'

Within - W: eg W8 will find terms with in eight words of one another and in the order in which they were entered. eg: physiotherapy W8 stroke will find '... physiotherapy in the respiratory mechanic of patients with stroke...' and '... physiotherapy interventions late after stroke...'

  1. Refine the results of your search
    There are a number of ways to refine your search. On the left of the results is a short list of ways to refine your search
    • Subjects as a major heading
    • Full text (Cinahl Plus with full text)
    • References available
    • By date (use the slider to limit to a specified time period)

Under 'Show More'

  • English language
  • Age groups
  • Peer reviewed journals
  • Evidence-based practice

And many more. Alternatively you can set your refinements before you start to search

  1. Full text journals in Cinahl Plus
    If you are looking to see if Cinahl Plus includes full-text of a specific journal, either:
    • On the page where you choose which database you want to search at the bottom of the explanatory paragraph hit 'Title List' which is a list of the journals covered. If you search for a specific title it will tell you if it is available in full text and if there are any limits to access.
    • From within the search, access the journal lists from 'Publications' on the top left navigation bar.

ْUseful links:


What is Evidence Based Practice (EBP)

It is a problem-solving approach to clinical practice that integrates the conscientious use of the best available research evidence, clinical expertise, and patient preferences and values. Therefore, before conducting any research, a physical therapist should follow steps of EBP Process:

Rosenberg, W. & Donald, A. (1995). Evidence based medicine: An approach to clinical problem-solvingBMJ, 310, 1122-1126.



PICOS is an mnemonic for:

P – Population/Patient/Problem

I  – Intervention

C – Comparison

O – Outcome

S – Setting/Study type

(T) – Time

P:  For what group do you need information?

I:   What medical intervention do you need to study the effect of?

C:  What is the evidence that the intervention produces different results than another intervention or no intervention?

O:  What is the effect of the intervention?

S:  What is the research setting (e.g., ambulatory setting) or type of study (e.g., RCT)?

T:  Is there a timeframe for the outcome?

Examples for using PICOS in different settings:

In____, what is the effect of _____on _____ compared with ______?

Are _ who have __ at __ risk for/of __ compared with __ with/without __?

Are (Is) ______ more accurate in diagnosing _____ compared with ______?

For ___ does the use of ____ reduce the future risk of ___ compared with __?

Does _____ influence ______ in patients who have _______? 

How do _____ diagnosed with _____ perceive ___________?

"Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare: a guide to best practice" by Bernadette M. Melnyk and Ellen Fineout-Overholt. 2005, page 31.


The Evidence Pyramid



Critical Appraisal

'Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness, and its value and relevance in a particular context.'(1) It is a systematic framework to assist the researcher to interpret the quality and relevance of research. When you are reading a research article and you want to apply the finding to your patients/clients, you should ask yourself: Are the results presented in this research valid?

Research may be undertaken to answer a wide range of questions and there are several ways to conduct research. However, it is important to note that the methodology chosen is appropriate to answer the research question and that the methodology has been appropriately applied. (2)

Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) offers critical appraisal skills that help the researcher to read and check health research for trustworthiness, results & relevance (




How to tell whether an article is worth reading:

Criteria for deciding the quality of an article:

Are study results good enough to be generalised:

Last updated on : February 19, 2023 11:54am