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Physical Therapy


This page will guide you through some of the ideas and resources you will need while working through DPT 881.

If  you need help with your literature search, don't hesitate to contact me or set up an appointment:
​Margaret Henderson
Health Sciences Librarian
​​Book an appointment: 
or email 

Background Questions

Focuses on the big picture and provides basic, general knowledge in reference to a specific condition, situation or topic.  

  • Provides general information that enables one to gain a greater understanding and allows one to understand the options or possibilities when it comes to addressing a topic.
  • Tend to have two components.
    • A question root (who, what, when, etc.) with a verb
    • A disorder, test, treatment, or other aspect of healthcare

Use Resources in the Quick Answers or Find Books tabs to get answers to Background Questions, or the following:

Foreground Questions

Focused question that asks something specific in order to make an informed clinical decision or action.

  • Specific knowledge about managing a patient with a condition.
  • Requires a grasp of basic concepts
  • Foreground Question Resources -   Research findings/Primary research, journal articles, evidence summaries, translational literature, conference proceedings, synthesis of findings
  • Question can be broken down into parts into parts -  PICO

P - (Patient, Population or Problem) 

I - (Intervention) 

C - (Comparison with other treatments, if applicable) 

O - (Outcome) 

Study Types for Different Questions

Type of Question

Best Type of Study

Intervention: How to select treatments that do more good than harm, and are worth the efforts and costs of using them.

Systematic Review of RCTs

Randomized Controlled/Clinical Trial (RCT)

Prevention: How to prevent a disease or condition.


Cohort Study

Case Control

Prognosis: How to estimate the patient’s likely clinical course over time and anticipate the likely complications of disease.


Cohort Study

Case Control

Diagnosis: How to select and interpret diagnostic tests.


Cross-Sectional Observational (Comparison to Gold standard)

Etiology/Harm: How to identify the causes for disease.

Cohort Study

Case Control Study

Cost Analysis: Economic costs of all facets of an intervention or disease treatment.

Economic Analysis


You can in PubMed for question and study types. Sometimes there is a specific heading or filter, but you can also just use the word or phrase (remember to put phrases in quotes).

Evaluating Articles

This article is a good start in evaluating research: 
Coughlan, M., Cronin, P., & Ryan, F. (2007). Step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 1: Quantitative research. British Journal of Nursing, 16(11), 658–663.