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PHYSICAL THERAPY: Research Guide | Get Started

Resource suggestions, search tips, and other help resources for research in physical therapy.

Online Research & Instruction Librarian

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Jeanie Winkelmann
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In This Guide

Vitruvian manIn this Guide, you'll find:

Developing a Search Strategy

Plan ahead

A search strategy is a plan that will help you look for the information you need.

  1. Identify the key concepts and main ideas. These will become your keywords, or search terms.
  2. Brainstorm alternate terms for these concepts, or some related terms.
  3. Determine where you'll search. Different databases index different journals and articles. Some focus on narrow subjects, and others cover a broader range. Read database descriptions, and choose a few to search in.
  4. Use database search techniques to broaden or narrow your search:
    • Use Boolean operators to broaden or narrow your search.
      • AND – narrows your search results by combining multiple terms
      • OR – broadens your search results by adding synonyms or related terms
      • NOT – narrows your search results by excluding results with certain specified words
    • Use wildcard and truncation symbols to account for alternate spellings or word endings. Symbols used depend on the database you're searching, but typically:
      • ? for a wildcard, to account for alternate spellings (wom?n = woman, women)
      • * for truncation, to account for alternate word endings (therap* = therapy, therapies, therapist, therapeutic, etc.)
    • Use official subject terms (i.e., MeSH in MEDLINE, CINAHL Headings in CINAHL), thesauri and other indexes. These are the terms a database uses to categorize and classify articles.
    • Make use of database filters for date, article type, etc.
  5. Mine bibliographies (works cited or reference lists) to find other relevant articles, etc.
  6. Keep track of what you find! Save PDFs and permanent or stable URLs.

Search Tips & Strategies