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Physical Therapy

This guide is designed for graduate-level physical therapy classes at NAU's Mountain Campus and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

The basics

 How to use this guide 

This guide is a resource from your health science librarians at NAU. We designed it to provide you with tools and strategies to help you meet your research goals. We recommend reading fully through this page before you get started. Afterwards, feel free to peruse the pages that best suit your needs. You'll find links to each of these pages in the bar to the left of this box.

 Determine your research needs with EBP 

EBP is "the conscientious explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients." (Sackett 1996) Put simply, optimal use of EBP involves carefully balancing:

  1. clinical expertise and ability;
  2. the best evidence available;
  3. patient values and circumstances.

Much of your coursework will involve careful application of the second portion, the best evidence available. You may be tasked with completing literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, or critical appraisal topic papers. In each case, you will have to search through a sea of information in order to find and identify the best possible evidence applicable to your research needs. 

Briefly, EBP health science research generally involves adhering to a hierarchical system that scaffolds information based upon "levels of evidence". While it is not meant to be an end-all-be-all for research, the Levels of Evidence Pyramid (pictured below) provides a helpful means to understanding the upwards flow of health science research.

Levels of Evidence Pyramid | Click Here


 Levels of Evidence 

The bottom of the pyramid is made up of "expert opinion", which does not immediately follow from an experimental or observational study. As you move upwards from one rung to the next, the quality of the information increases. At the top of the pyramid, you will find systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines. These are generally believed to provide very high quality appraisal and analysis of specific research questions, and for that reason, should be considered high priority when conducting literature searches. That said, because they are difficult to produce in a timely manner, these types of information may not always be available, or they may be outdated. In those cases, you will need to move "down" the pyramid until you find the best possible information to suit your needs. 

As you work through the Research Articles page on this guide, you will find that we have broken it down according to the Levels of Evidence Pyramid. This is to help you conduct your research efficiently. Not all databases contain the same types of information, so you will have to pick and choose depending upon your research question and goals. Sometimes you will find what you are looking for with ease. Other times, it may take a while. Remember that the investment is worth it in the end, and in time your search skills will improve!

 Next steps 

Learning about EBP takes a lot of time, and we could spend pages explaining it all here. That is not the point of this guide. Rather, this is meant to provide a quick explainer to help ease your navigation of the following pages. If you care to know more about EBP, then we strongly suggest checking out the Cline Library EBP Guides:

Otherwise, you are now ready to take a crack at the pages in this guide. We recommend starting with the Research articles page, especially if you already have an idea what you are looking for. If you are still working on formulating a research question, consider starting with the Background information page. For your convenience, a list of all research pages is below:

Physical Therapy Guide Pages