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What should a scholarly, peer reviewed article look like?

Your search may turn up many different kinds of sources - editorials, letters to the editor, magazine/newsletter articles, and other news reporting.

Here are some tips on how to spot research studies.

Breaking down your research question

Is tapotement effective in treating flexor spasticity in adults with Multiple Sclerosis?   

Before you start searching, it is helpful to us the PICO(T) or PS tool to help identify the key aspects of your question. Consider as well if there are any possible synonyms/related terms for each aspect of your question.

Population (P)

Adult with Multiple Sclerosis

Intervention/Exposure (I/E)


Comparison (C)

Not applicable

Outcome (O)

Flexor spasticity

What if you are not finding much research on your specific condition?

In some cases, you may need to come at your topic from a few different angles to generate enough research for your literature review. 

The image is a concept map with the question Is tapotement effective in treating flexor spasticity in adults with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? Radiating out from that central question are broader questions that students could consider finding research around to complete their literature review. The broader questions are the following: What is the research around the causes and symptoms of MS? What are the current recommended treatment options for MS? Are there other complementary therapies being used successfully? Is tapotement effective in addressing spasticity in other conditions? Are Swedish massage techniques effective in addressing spasticity in other conditions? Is massage being used successfully in treating other conditions of the central nervous system?

Choosing your Search Tool(s)

Most Precise Search Tool


In-Between Choice


Broadest Search Tool

Google Scholar


  • Free to search after graduation
  • Curated pool of results from major medical/health journals
  • Options for limiting by study type, age, and more
  • Recommends similar articles and shows a list of articles that have cited particular studies


  • Has some special search rules to remember - for examples, we don't recommend you use quotation marks for exact phrases or an asterisk to search for different endings of a word in PubMed
  • Doesn't search the full text of articles


  • Searches across multiple databases at the same time
  • Search results include books
  • Includes features like the ability to sign in and save results using the pin function


  • After graduation, you won't be able to search as broadly across databases in this tool unless you are on campus
  • Less precise, more results to wade through
  • Inability to limit to particular study types, age


  • Free to use after graduation
  • Searches across multiple disciplines
  • Very forgiving search -  lets you know if you have spelled terms incorrectly and also often searches within the full text of articles
  • You can see who has cited sources - great way to find newer sources


  • Contains some questionable sources/journals - isn't manually curated
  • Returns huge numbers of results - more than you can typically manage


Video: Search tips on finding scholarly articles using PubMed or Google Scholar

What is PubMed?

PubMed is a freely available database of medical literature. It contains references from over 5000 journals from around the world.

PubMed contains all of the references listed in Medline, which libraries pay to access.

Please use this custom link to access PubMed - it will include the link to Library Resources

How do I use PubMed to find articles?

Search Using Keywords

You can search using keywords.


Want to Improve Your Search - Consider Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

You can also search using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) (this video shows you how). MeSH are tags attached to articles to describe what they are about.

Please note: MeSH uses Massage, not Massage Therapy, to describe articles.

What about Google Scholar?

Google Scholar can be useful in generating ideas around search terms, but is not a complete replacement for a PubMed search when it comes to health research. It is unclear which journals are included in Google Scholar and how far back it goes.

Google Scholar is very useful in tracking down the full text of articles cited in other works. Search for the title of the article in the search box below, and if Mount Royal subscribes to the journal, a link to the full text will be provided. If full text is not available, you can request the article via Interlibrary Loan below.

Google Scholar Search

Examples of research journals in massage therapy

Please note that not all of the content in these publications is peer reviewed. You can confirm this by visiting the journal's website, or by looking up the journal in a resource like Ulrichsweb.

Other useful databases

Requesting articles through interlibrary loan

Interlibrary Loan is a free service which provides you with access to sources that MRU does not own. If we do not have the full text of an article you wish to read, you can request a copy following the process below. Typically, it takes 2-3 business days for an article to arrive (you will receive an email notification when it is ready for pickup).

APA Guides and Resources

The following APA resources will help you cite in-text, create a reference list, and format your paper.

Where can I go for help with research and citation?

Use the Library's online chat service for assistance from our experienced team members.

They are able to answer quick questions on searching, access to full text of articles, and citation.

To see the hours of operation for the chat service, please visit the library homepage.


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Cari Merkley

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