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Physical Therapist Assistant: Find Articles

Types of Publications: How to Evaluate

Types of Reviews: Literature Review vs. Systematic Review

Traditional literature review / narrative review:


  • Describes and appraises previous work but does not describe specific methods by which the reviewed studies were identified, selected and evaluated


  • Overviews, discussions, critiques of previous work and the current gaps in knowledge
  • Often used as rationale for new research  
  • To scope the types of interventions available to include in a review


  • The writer's assumptions and agenda often unknown
  • Biases that occur in selecting and assessing the literature are unknown
  • Cannot be replicated

Systematic review:


  • The scope of the review is identified in advance (e.g., review question and sub‐questions and/or sub‐group analysis to be undertaken)
  • Comprehensive search to find all relevant studies
  • Use of explicit criteria to include / exclude studies
  • Application of established standards to critically appraise study quality
  • Explicit methods of extracting and synthesizing study findings (qualitative or quantitative)
  • May include a meta-analysis (quantitative synthesis) *optional


  • Identifies, appraises and synthesizes all available research that is relevant to a particular review question
  • Collates all that is known on a given topic and identifies the basis of that knowledge  
  • Comprehensive report using explicit processes so that rationale, assumptions and methods are open to scrutiny by external parties
  • Can be replicated / updated


  • Systematic reviews with narrowly defined review questions provide specific answers to specific questions  
  • Alternative questions that have not been answered usually need to be reconstructed by the reader  

Source: Cochrane. Background to Systematic Reviews

Used with permission: Jenny Pierce, Temple University Libraries.

Journals in the Library

Get to know the following journals (one trade magazine) which are core in your field. Locate them in the databases. (For information about accessing databases from off campus, see the tab below labelled "Physical Therapy Articles: From the UCNJ Libraries Subscription Databases.")

  • APTA Magazine (formerly PT in Motion)
  • Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (some content available as open access here)
  • Journal of Allied Health
  • Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
  • Pediatric Physical Therapy
  • PTJ: Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal (formerly Physical Therapy: Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association)

Physical Therapy Articles: From the UCNJ Libraries Subscription Databases

Start your search with the following databases to find articles about physical therapy and related topics.  You will find them on the Health Databases page.

You need to be logged into the College network to access these resources. If you are not logged in you will be prompted to do so.

To access library databases from off campus, the format is as follows:

Student log-in-- and your password

Faculty and staff log-in-- and your password

All of the databases listed below may be accessed from off-campus. 

Alt HealthWatch--  This database contains articles on complementary, holistic and integrated approaches to health care and wellness, with nearly 50,000 articles from over 160 international, peer-reviewed and professional journals, magazines, reports, proceedings, and association and consumer newsletters, plus hundreds of pamphlets, booklets, special reports, original research and book excerpts. Coverage: 1990 to the present (from vendor description).

CINAHL Complete--  Vendor description: This is the definitive research tool for nursing and allied health professionals. With CINAHL Complete users get fast and easy access to top nursing and allied health journals, evidence-based care sheets and quick lessons.

Nursing and Allied Health Collection Comprehensive--  Designed for nursing and allied health professionals, students, educators and researchers, this database provides full text for nearly 400 journals covering the areas of nursing, biomedicine, health sciences, consumer health and allied health disciplines. Nearly all full text titles included in Nursing & Allied Health: Comprehensive Edition are indexed in CINAHL. (from vendor description).

Nursing and Allied Health Premium--  ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source makes it easy to find reliable healthcare information. This database provides full text journals, evidence based resources, and dissertations to support the study of the many aspects of nursing or the allied health professions, including physical therapy, radiography, dietetics, dental hygiene, and the clinical laboratory sciences (from vendor description).

Rehabilitation Reference Center-- Rehabilitation Reference Center is an evidence-based point-of-care database used by clinical personnel in rehabilitation settings (e.g., physical therapists, occupational therapists). 

ScienceDirect-- ScienceDirect offers authoritative, full-text journal articles and book chapters (including open access content) from scientific, technical, and health publications.

CINAHL Database: Basic Search Tutorial

Rehabilitation Reference Center Database: Tutorial

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences--  a solid overview of these three categories of source information, developed by the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Library, and used with permission.

Free Databases

Epistemonikos -- is a freely available index of systematic reviews, overviews of reviews, and primary studies cited in those reviews. For full information, including content and tips for navigating Epistemonikos, read the Inside Science Resources blog entry from the Science & Technology Section's (STS) STEMM Librarianship Resources Committee, of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL).

Per the Committee "...this blog provides insights and tips from a Science Librarian perspective for users across libraries, teacher and student populations. It is meant to ease the discovery of and access to science and technology information for members of the science and technology library community and beyond."

PEDro --  based in Australia, PEDro is the free Physiotherapy Evidence Database.  According to its Web site, PEDro contains "...49,000 trials, reviews and guidelines evaluating physiotherapy interventions...."  Union College PTA students:  you are expected to use USA information sources in your research.  Consult with your professor if you find an international source you are interested in using.

Virtual tour of the new PEDro Web site.

Fraud and Mistakes in Scholarly Literature

Retraction Watch --  Be aware, be informed.  Minor mistakes such as typos or wrong addresses can happen in scholarly literature. These can be corrected by issuing an erratum notice to point out the errors.  But sometimes, an entire article has to be recalled because the mistakes are serious. This act of recalling the article is called retraction, and it's not often well publicized, even though consequences of flawed research can be devastating. Here's a blog that serves as a " informal repository for the retractions" found by the blog's two author's (Adam Marcus, and Ivan Oransky).

Google Scholar

Google Scholar can help you locate scholarly literature within the UCNJ Libraries print and electronic resources. 

Google Scholar settings for library links-- Google is updating their platform to integrate our College name change. Until that happens, use Union County College.

Once you link your settings to the UCNJ Libraries, if you are not already logged in to your College account, you will be prompted to authenticate with the following format: 

  • For students:, your password. 
  • For faculty and staff:, your password.
Google Scholar Search
UCNJ LibGuides at Union College