Skip to Main Content

Physical Therapy

Guide to locating research evidence and tools for Physical Therapy students and faculty.

Step 1: Understanding the Source

To appraise evidence quality, you first need to understand the source of the evidence.

  • What type of source is this? (See the University of Minnesota Library's page on Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences.)
  • What is the purpose of the source (or the research the source is presenting)?
  • How current is the source? When was it published? Is the evidence presented still applicable? Have clinical practices changes? Has consensus understanding of a disease, condition, or treatment changed?
  • Who is the author of the source? What are the author's credentials and qualifications? Was the source peer reviewed or edited?
  • Who is the publisher of the source? A scholarly journal, newspaper, magazine, association, organization, or some other entity?

Step 2: Assessing the Study Methodology

Understanding how a study was conducted (the methodology) can help you determine the quality of the evidence being presented. Here are some tips for determining study methodology:

  1. Scan the research article to find the study or publication type (e.g., randomized controlled trial, case report, observational study, review article, etc.). Note that a review article is not necessarily a "systematic review."
  2. Read the methods section of the article to determine how the study was conducted. The following resources provide guidance for understanding study methodology.

Step 3: Doing the Critical Appraisal

Below are critical appraisal tools and checklists, as well as reporting guidelines for different types of studies.

      For help using the AGREE II Instrument, see AGREE II Training Tools.

Searchable Registries of Appraisal Tools & Reporting Guidelines

Determining Level of Evidence

There are a number of evidence hierarchies that could be used to "rank" evidence. Which hierarchy is applied often depends on disciplinary norms. Students should refer to materials and guidance from their professors about which hierarchy is appropriate to use.