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Physical Therapy: Research Databases

Medical and Health Databases

You can search databases such as these for journal articles.  Most provide article citations and abstracts. In many cases, you can find full text of the articles.​

Clinical Reference Tools

Databases in Other Disciplines

Evidence-Based Practice

In Evidence-Based Practice (EBP), research studies are ranked in a Hierarchy of Evidence. Information sources described near the top of the pyramid are the most thoroughly reviewed and synthesized. The type of sources you need to seek will depend on the type of question you need to answer.

Research design and evidence. Click for machine readable SVG.

Research design and evidence, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Recognizing and Reading Peer-Reviewed Articles


Initial Reading

Because they are written by and for scholars, peer-reviewed articles are often challenging to read.

Try approaching the parts of the article in this order:

  1. Abstract: Read it carefully. If you can't understand the abstract at all, the article might not be relevant to your topic.
  2. Conclusion: The author's interpretation of the study's results tells you more about whether this article will be helpful. You may need to move on to another article or adjust your topic in response to what you're learning about the existing research.
  3. Skim the body of the article, paying attention to the headings and figures:
    • Introduction: Understand why the study was conducted.
    • Literature review: Learn how the study fits into the scholarly conversation about the topic and look out for other relevant sources for your project.
    • Methods (or Design): Find out how the researchers collected and analyzed their data.
    • Results (and/or Discussion): Review the information that the study produced.

Full Reading

If you plan to discuss a source in detail, read the complete article from beginning to end.

Read slowly and look up unfamiliar words. Take notes that summarize your understanding of each section. While you read, try to determine:

  • What are the main and sub-questions the study was intended to answer?
  • How credible are the study and its results? Be able to explain your answer.
  • How does the article fit within your research? Does it confirm, challenge, or complicate your own ideas?