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College of Rehabilitation Sciences: OT 6352

Guide for OT, PT, RT, and MSc Rehab

Steps in Searching for the Best Evidence

  1. Create a searchable question using PICO or PCC
  2. Know the type of question (domain) you are searching and the type of research studies or designs that go with that type of question/domain.
  3. Build a search map
  4. Add a search filter (corresponds to your question type/domain)
  5. Select databases (rehab, health, all disciplines)
  6. Execute search, appraise, edit search strategy if required and search again

Key Concepts

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are used in databases to combine terms and phrases. AND is used to combine terms and phrases so that all terms and phrases are contained in the results, OR is used to combine terms and phrases so that any term or phrase is contained in the results. Use AND to focus your search and OR to expand a concept.


Filters are pre-formatted searches that are applied to your search to focus your search to a specific set of information, i.e. English only articles, randomized controlled trials, last 10 years, etc.


Nesting is a convention used in databases to dictate the order of functions that a database search will run. All terms and phrases contained within parentheses (the nest) will be run as a complete separate searches before the database combines the two or more nests. I.e. the database will search (stroke OR cerebral vascular accident) and then (therapy OR rehabilitation) and then combine those two sets to give you your results, this is what it would like in the database: (stroke OR cerebral vascular accident) AND (therapy OR rehabilitation). Without nesting the search would not give you what you are looking for.

Search History

Search History refers to the area of the database that holds the results of all of your searches. You can use this area to combine different search results to create a complex search.

Search Map

A search map is device that is used to strategize and organize the search you intend to run in a database. It is only needed for complex searches.

Finding Systematic Reviews

Follow these steps to find systematic reviews on your topic

  1. Determine if your topic is suited for systematic reviews. Typically research that is quantitative in nature are suited to systematic reviews, research that is qualitative in nature are suited to scoping reviews - there are exceptions, you can find qualitative systematic reviews and quantitative scoping reviews too
  2. Identify your main concepts. It can help to create a search strategy for your topic.
  3. Select your databases to search and search in this order:
    1. Evidence-based database such as Cochrane, TRIP, JBI
    2. PubMed Clinical Queries
    3. Databases that index publication types (filter to systematic reviews)
    4. Databases using your extensive search strategy and filter (the Systematic Review Hedge on the AUB page provides a good copy and paste selection).
  4. Search your topic

Question Types (Domains)

  • Every searchable question falls into a category know as the "type of question" (a.k.a. domain).
  • There are many types of questions, in health the main ones are therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, etiology, and feeling/experience (qualitative studies).
  • Each question type is associated with specific research methods and designs, understanding the question helps identify the research methods and designs you want for your filter.

Search Filters

  • The following are basic filters can be used for evidence-based searching
  • Filters (a.k.a. hedges) are used to find articles that contain research based on methodology or design that you require for your question, based on your "type of question" (see box above).
  • Create your filter search and add that filter to your topic search

  • Therapy: “randomized controlled trial” OR “clinical trial” OR (double AND blind*) OR random* (* indicates wildcard) 
  • Diagnosis: “sensitivity and specificity” OR diagnosis OR “diagnostic use” OR (predictive AND value*) OR reliability OR validity 
  • Prognosis: incidence OR mortality OR “follow-up studies” OR prognos* OR predict* OR course 
  • Etiology: “cohort studies” OR risk OR (odds AND ratio*) OR (relative AND risk*) OR (case AND control*)
  • Qualitative: ethnography OR phenomenology OR grounded theory OR focus group OR narratology OR qualitative research OR "case study" OR participatory action research 

Recommended Evidence-Based Resources

OT Librarian

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Carol Cooke
she / her / hers
Rm 226, Brodie Centre, Bannatyne Campus

Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library
727 McDermot Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3E 3P5