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Physical Therapy Assistant: Information Resources for PTA

he program emphasizes a combination of didactic and clinical instruction necessary for successful employment

Research Tips


—Essential for good results

—Must be spelled correctly
—Sometimes require creativity
¡Heart Disease/Coronary Disease/Heart Failure
¡Car/motor vehicle/automobile
—In healthcare, the more specific the better.

Controlled Vocabulary

—All articles entered into a database have “keywords” attached to entry, known as Controlled Vocabulary
—Most common in healthcare is MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)
—Created by the National Library of Medicine
—Listed in tree format
—More specific and accurate than keywords.

Evidence-based Practice

  • “The physical therapy profession recognizes the use of evidence-based practice (EBP) as central to providing high-quality care and decreasing unwarranted variation in practice.” – American Physical Therapy Association
  • Not all evidence is created equal

Evidence Based Research Pyramid


—The first step when attempting research is to ask the right question. That isn’t always easy!
—A good way to frame questions to make sure they include PICO:
¡P – Patient, Problem, or Population
¡I – Intervention
¡C – Comparison
¡O – Outcomes
¡(T) – Time element or Type of Study
—Comparison and Time or Type are typically the only optional components. You might not want to look for alternatives or there may be none. You may not care about time or type of study.

Sample Question Outlines

—For an intervention/therapy:
¡In _______(P), what is the effect of _______(I) on ______(O) compared with _______(C) within ________ (T)?
—For etiology:
¡Are ____ (P) who have _______ (I) at ___ (Increased/decreased) risk for/of_______ (O) compared with ______ (P) with/without ______ (C) over _____ (T)?
—Diagnosis or diagnostic test:
¡Are (is) _________ (I) more accurate in diagnosing ________ (P) compared with ______ (C) for _______ (O)?
¡For ________ (P) does the use of ______ (I) reduce the future risk of ________ (O) compared with _________ (C)?
¡Does __________ (I) influence ________ (O) in patients who have _______ (P) over ______ (T)?
¡How do ________ (P) diagnosed with _______ (I) perceive ______ (O) during _____ (T)?
Based on Melnyk B., & Fineout-Overholt E. (2010). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

PICO Scenarios

Read the following clinical scenarios and create a research question using the PICO format. Remember, Comparison might be optional!

Scenario 1

Jane, who is 65, has been suffering from chronic lower back pain. She recently watched a documentary about acupuncture and wants to know if acupuncture might offer any relief.

Scenario 2

Debbie has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She is depressed and struggling with traditional gait training. The senior center in her community has recently started offering dance therapy classes. Would that help Debbie?