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Occupational Therapy

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:


  • Apply, analyze, and evaluate scientific evidence to explain the importance of balancing areas of occupation; the role of occupation in the promotion of health; and the prevention of disease, illness, and dysfunction for persons, groups, and populations. (ACOTE B.3.4)
  • Demonstrate clinical reasoning to evaluate, analyze, diagnose, and provide occupation based interventions to address client factors, performance patterns, and performance skills. (ACOTE B.4.2)

  • Critique quantitative and qualitative research in order to analyze and evaluate scholarly activities, which contribute to the development of a body of knowledge. (ACOTE B.6.1)

  • Locate, select, analyze, and evaluate scholarly literature to make evidence-based decisions. (ACOTE B.6.1)

  • Design and implement a scholarly study that aligns with current research priorities and advances knowledge translation, professional practice, service delivery, or professional issues. (ACOTE B.6.1)

  • Create scholarly reports appropriate for presentation or for publication in a peer-reviewed journal that support skills of clinical practice. The reports must be made available to professional or public audiences. (ACOTE B.6.3)

Evidence-Based Practice Searching

This course guide references VCU Libraries' "Evidence-Based Practice" research guide. Be sure to visit this guide via the links on this page to review the resources that will help you navigate the evidence-based process: Assess the patient; Ask the question; Acquire the evidence; Appraise the evidence; Apply to the patient.


An evidence-based question asks what evidence is available to determine if your current method is following best practices. This follows a process of distinguishing between your background and foreground questions. Choosing the correct library resource for the question begins at even this stage, as some resources are better suited for background questions while others are used to answer the foreground questions. 

  • Comprehensive resources that are designed to answer background questions include:
    • AccessMedicine
    • ClinicalKey
    • UpToDate
  • Article-level resources that are used to answer foreground questions include:
    • PubMed and PubMed Clinical Queries
    • CINAHL
    • Cochrane Library

As with other research projects, you will break up your question into concepts. For evidence-based practice questions, this process includes the PICO format:

Patient population/Problem

How would I describe a group of patients similar to mine?
Intervention Which main intervention, exposure, or prognostic factor am I considering?
Comparison What is the main alternative (if applicable) to compare with the intervention?
Outcomes What can I hope to accomplish, measure, improve, affect?

For a review on creating a search question, watch this video:

Identifying the type of question you're asking is important because:

  • You identify the research methodology
  • You can select the best resource to answer your question
  • You can determine the best filters for your question
  • You can critically appraise the evidence based on appropriateness and rigor

Furthermore, if you are familiar with type of literature available in certain evidence-based resources, you can determine which of these to search to answer your question.

  • PubMed: the premier biomedical database for most life sciences literature, from systematic reviews and randomized control trials to case studies and reviews and online books.
  • PubMed Clinical Queries: a tool of PubMed that allows you to filter by clinical study, systematic reviews, and medical genetics articles.
  • CINAHL: an allied health database that accesses allied health literature, including periodicals and care sheets.
  • Cochrane: the gold standard for systematic reviews and clinical trials.

The next steps in your search process will be:

  • Consider all the relevant terminology needed to describe the elements of your PICO question;
  • Use Boolean operators to combine your search terms;
  • Search more than one database;
  • Filter the search results according to which study type you need to answer your question.

Be sure to watch these videos to review how to put together a database search:

The "evidence-based pyramid" is a good guide for determining which studies are designed to be the most rigorous, thus decreasing bias. Even then, you still need to evaluate the methodology to determine how rigorously the study was performed. 

Related Guides and Resources