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Physical Therapy

Get help on PTA research assignments.

Apply the FIRST Criteria

The FIRST method is designed for evaluating scholarly research, such as medical studies.

F = Funding

Who paid for the study? Might the funders have any reason to want a certain outcome?

EXAMPLE: Many years ago the tobacco industry funded studies that showed smoking was safe and even healthy. Do you think they had a special interest in those results?

I = Investigation

Was the study looking at causation or cause and effect, as in did X cause Y? Or was the experiment focused on correlation, as in how X and Y are related in one way or another? IMPORTANT: correlation isn't causation! Just because X and Y are related in some way does not mean X caused Y or Y caused X.

R = Results

How are the results of the study or experiment presented? Do they seem trustworthy and objective, or is it sensationalized, maybe even click-baity?

Where are the results presented? Are they in a peer-reviewed academic journal or other scholarly publication? Or is it something like an Instagram post or a TikTok with no sources cited?

IMPORTANT: A credible, quality study or piece of research will suggest findings, but generally will not attempt to prove anything 💯 with absolute certainty. If something sounds too sensational to be true, it probably is not true.

S = Subjects

How big was the study? Who was studied - animals, people or something else? If people were the subjects, who where they? The smaller and more specific the sample, the less able the results can be applied to a larger audience.

EXAMPLE: A study of 50 college students named Pat does not prove anything about all college students or all people named Pat. 

Warning: Results of animal studies can be suggestive, but are not the same as research on humans.

T = Time

How old is the study or research? If it's more than 5 years old, is there a newer study that replicates or reevaluates the results?

How long did the study run? Usually the longer a study runs, the more reliable the results. Consider the difference between studying something for 7 months as opposed to 7 days or 7 hours, or the 7 minutes it took you to read this.