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Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA): Literature Review

This guide provides links to some of our key occupational therapy resources as well as a selection of occupational therapy news. Please explore the tabs at the top of this guide and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

What is a literature review and how do I do one?

A literature review in the sciences has nothing to do with novels or American or British Lit. A literature review is a thorough summary of previous research on a topic. 

To do a literature review, the researcher (YOU!) will need to find scholarly articles, books, and other sources about a particular topic or research question. Then the researcher summarizes and evaluates the sources to find similarities, differences, overlap of research, as well as holes or room for more research into a topic. 

If the researcher was trying to find a topic to research, the literature review would help them find the topic that needs to be explored (or further explored). The literature review also establishes what doesn't need to be further researched and what might even be considered common knowledge in that field (because you see it over and over in the literature). 

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Research and the Literature Review

1. Pick your topic but also be flexible with your keyboards (and maybe even your topic!). Sometimes you have to narrow, or broaden, or tweak to make it researchable.

2. Think in terms of keywords. Here are some examples

  • "occupational therapy" AND autism - maybe you want to research how occupational therapy is used with autistic people. 
  • "occupational therapy" AND autism AND toddlers - fewer results but only results that include toddlers as a subject or in the title.
  • "occupational therapy" AND "fine motor skills" - took out autism but would include results with autism as well as stroke victims, etc.
  • "occupational therapy" AND (elderly OR "older people") - you aren't sure whether elderly or older people is the keyword so you are including both
  • "occupational therap*" - would find information about occupational therapy or occupational therapists or occupational therapist. The * goes where there could be different letters or combinations.

3. Read the literature reviews of other research articles and use the bibliographies to find articles that other researchers have used. You should only use sources that you've actually read yourself (not just read ABOUT). 

4. Ask your librarians if you have questions. Use the Ask-a-Librarian box or email or 

Cinahl occupational therapy

Proquest occupational therapy and autism


nursing and allied health ota and autism

Recommended Databases for the Literature Review

Pro Tips

  • For literature reviews, you don't always need the most up-to-date articles.
  • Sometimes you are looking for the original or groundbreaking research on a topic.
  • Also, you may find that the research is in a book and not an article.
  • If you start seeing articles or names of researchers repeated, that's a good thing! You are finding the most important work on that topic.

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