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Occupational Therapy: Research Tips

Search Strategies

How Search Strategies Work 


Search Strategy

What it does



(Boolean Operator)

All terms must appear

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use to include multiple unique concepts

“coffee AND Brazil” searches for all articles that include both terms, coffee and Brazil


(Boolean Operator)

Either term may appear

Broadens your search

More results

Use for related concepts

“coffee OR caffeine” searches for either term in the articles


(Boolean Operator)

Removes a term from your search

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use for concepts you do not want to include

“South America NOT Brazil” searches for articles on South America and removes articles with the word Brazil in them


Search for exact phrases

Narrows your search

Fewer results

“ecological tourism” searches for that phrase in that particular order


Searches for all forms of a word

Broadens your search

More results

Use to search for the root word of a concept

Add an asterisk * to the root or stem of a word

A search for “tour*” will look for tour, tourism, tourist


Using Boolean Operators


Using Limits in Your Search

What are limits and why use them?

Limits are helpful in focusing your search.  Once you've done your initial search you can use some limits to help you narrow your results to a more manageable amount of information.

  • Date:  limit results to a specific time frame
  • Peer review:  limit to only peer-reviewed articles
  • Full text:  find only the articles available in full text  **TIP:  you can request an article that isn't available through Interlibrary Loan
  • Publication type:  limit results to meta analysis, reviews, systematic reviews, research articles, and evidence based practice.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Need help figuring out if research is Qualitative or Quantitative?  Check out these great resources below.  They'll guide you through deciding!

Useful Search Terms

Below is a list of subjects that often relate to occupational therapy.  Considering these subject terms can help you develop a topic or focus your search.

  • occupational therapy
  • occupational therapists
  • vocational rehabilitation
  • medical rehabilitation
  • physical therapy
  • art therapy
  • music therapy
  • neurodevelopmental treatment
  • recreational therapy

Systematic Reviews & Meta Analysis

What are Systematic Reviews & Meta Analyses?

Systematic Review
"A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question"  (The Cochrane Library)

Meta Analysis
Meta analysis is "a statistical synthesis of the numerical results of several trials which all address the same question" (Greenhalgh, 2010, p.121).

Where do I find Systematic Reviews & Meta Analyses?

The Cochrane Library and JBI - Ovid are primary resources for finding meta analysis and systematic reviews.  However they can also be found in PubMed and Health - EBSCO databases.

Evidence Based Practice & the Research Process

Literature Reviews