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Physical Therapy

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

Strategies for Narrowing a Search


Filters allow you to narrow your results based on certain criteria. Filter selections are often located on the left side of the database page. Common database filters include:

  • Publication date
  • Peer review or research article
  • Publication type (e.g., case studies, editorials, news articles, as well as higher levels of evidence such as clinical trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses)

Note that not all of the filters above will be included in every database.

Some point to keep in mind about filters:

  • Avoid filtering for "full text"!  NYU subscribes to full text in many ways and from multiple vendors and packages.  Look for the NYU full text links, or see this guide to finding full text at NYU.
  • In some databases you may see filters for geography.  Do not assume these filters refer to where a study was conducted - they actually may filter results by which country a journal publisher is based in!
  • If you are performing a comprehensive search (e.g., for a systematic review or a scoping review) use filters sparingly. 

Using More Specific Subject Headings

Subject headings are often hierarchical, with broader headings encompassing more specific terms.  For instance, while a search with the PubMed Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) term "Diabetes Mellitus" may be too broad, you could try a narrower term like "Diabetes, Gestational.”

PubMed MesH Tutorial

CINAHL Subject Headings Explanation

Subject headings can be tricky. For more guidance on how to use them effectively, contact Stacy Torian, Librarian for Allied Health at

Using "AND"

If an initial search retrieves too many results, it may be necessary to integrate an additional concept, using the Boolean operator AND.

For example, a search on "physical therapy" AND pain AND fibromyalgia would likely yield fewer results than a search on "physical therapy" AND pain.