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PTA100 Introduction to Physical Therapy: Choosing a Research Topic

What do you need?

As a researcher, you need to define and articulate the need for information.  This includes:

  • Identifying a research topic;
  • Developing a topic and formulating questions based on the information need;
  • Exploring general information sources to increase your familiarity with the topic;
  • Developing the information need into a manageable focus (i.e. a research question);
  • Identifying keywords, synonyms and related terms for the information needed;
  • Constructing and implementing a search strategy in various information retrieval systems (databases);
  • Assessing the quantity, quality, and relevance of the search results to determine whether alternative information retrieval systems should be utilized;
  • Identifying gaps in the information retrieved and determine if the search strategy should be revised; and
  • Repeating the search using the revised strategy as necessary.

Research Strategy

  • Start by writing down some topics of interest to you in the discipline.
    • Example:  Concussions in student athletes are a growing public health problem.  You may be interested in knowing about the dangers of concussions, what to do if you suspect a student has a concussion, and how to evaluate and manage the concussion in order for the student to return to athletic activity.
  • Is there a specific disease or condition that interests you, perhaps one that has affected a friend or family member?  What are some therapeutic methods that could be employed to help those affected by it?
  • Is there a health issue that interests you that drew you to enter this major?
  • Browse the table of contents/news sections of professional magazines and journals to see what is being researched (see the Find Articles tab, then click on Using Physical Therapy Journals tab or Using Related Medical Journals tab).
  • What topics are covered in your textbooks?

Using the following databases, look up background information on your topic as that may help you to narrow your focus.

After you conduct a review on your topic, you should discover what is already known and what research questions remain regarding your topic.  Your research question will most likely derive from the recent literature. What remains to be known and studied about your issue? Which implications for future research were stated in the articles you found?

Health topic Too broad Too narrow Just Right
Rehabilitation for brain injuries X    
Mirror therapy for brain-injured or stroke patients with partial paralysis     X
Health benefits of whole grains in one’s diet     X
What are the causes of sprains in athletes? X    
What are the best treatments for itching (pruritus) in hospitalized patients? X    
Health needs of elderly residents in Charlotte County after Hurricane Charley in 2004     X
Does exercise improve mental health? X    
Pet therapy with a dog for an autistic child, age 5   X  

 

Research topic Sample refined research question
Rehabilitation for brain injuries Is mirror therapy effective for brain-injured or stroke patients with partial paralysis or gait disorders?
Health benefits of whole grains in one’s diet Are whole grain cereals preventative for cardiovascular disease?
What are the causes of sprains in athletes? What are common risk factors for ankle sprains in adult athletes?
What are the best treatments for itching (pruritus) in hospitalized patients? Comparison of two or more topical agents for effectiveness in reducing Pruriceptive pruritis
Health needs of elderly residents in Charlotte County after Hurricane Charley in 2004 What are the most prevalent post-hurricane health needs of elderly Florida residents with chronic health conditions?
Does exercise improve mental health? Does an outdoor physical activity program improve the m.h. status of adults with clinical depression?
Pet therapy with a dog for a 5 year-old autistic child Does pet therapy provide benefits in social interaction and learning in children on the autistic disorder spectrum?
 

Source:  Physical Therapy: Choosing a Research Topic by David Petersen, Health Professions & Social Work Librarian, Florida Gulf Coast University

The purpose of this video is to:

  • Explain how to define and articulate a need for information;
  • Demonstrate how to construct and implement an effectively-designed search strategy; and
  • Demonstrate how to refine a search strategy, when necessary.
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