Interested in how to better understand scientific manuscripts or keep up-to-date with research in your field? Looking for tips and tools to approach your first research project? This toolkit provides a variety of research-related resources for RTs in all roles at all levels.

*All images, links. and text from outside sources in this toolkit have been reproduced with permission. Have a suggestion for a link we could include? Contact

Tips for Understanding Research

These steps and tips will be useful to anyone interested in understanding how to get the most out of scientific articles, and raise important points for RTs to consider with their own writing practice. 

From: The Centre for Evidence-Based Information:

Critical appraisal is the systematic evaluation of clinical research papers in order to establish:

  1. Does this study address a clearly focused question?
  2. Did the study use valid methods to address this question?
  3. Are the valid results of this study important?
  4. Are these valid, important results applicable to my patient or population?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you can save yourself the trouble of reading the rest of it.

Critical Appraisal Worksheets

From the University of Toronto webpage  Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing:

Some Practical Tips

  1. Critical reading occurs after some preliminary processes of reading. Begin by skimming research materials, especially introductions and conclusions, in order to strategically choose where to focus your critical efforts.
  2. When highlighting a text or taking notes from it, teach yourself to highlight argument: those places in a text where an author explains her analytical moves, the concepts she uses, how she uses them, how she arrives at conclusions. Don’t let yourself foreground and isolate facts and examples, no matter how interesting they may be. First, look for the large patterns that give purpose, order, and meaning to those examples. The opening sentences of paragraphs can be important to this task.
  3. When you begin to think about how you might use a portion of a text in the argument you are forging in your own paper, try to remain aware of how this portion fits into the whole argument from which it is taken. Paying attention to context is a fundamental critical move.
  4. When you quote directly from a source, use the quotation critically. This means that you should not substitute the quotation for your own articulation of a point. Rather, introduce the quotation by laying out the judgments you are making about it, and the reasons why you are using it. Often a quotation is followed by some further analysis.
  5. Critical reading skills are also critical listening skills. In your lectures, listen not only for information but also for ways of thinking. Your instructor will often explicate and model ways of thinking appropriate to a discipline.

“It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” (Sackett D, 1996)

The Joanna Briggs Institute Model for Evidence-based Healthcare (YouTube Video)

Use these databases to search for the evidence on your topic of interest

PubMed: From the National Library of Medicine PubMed is a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database. MeSH descriptors (Medical Subject Headings) are used to index the literature.

From Georgia State University:

CINAHL: Nurses, allied health professionals, researchers, nurse educators and students depend on the CINAHL Database to research their subject areas from this authoritative index of nursing and allied health journals. This resource also uses MeSH headings for searching.

Scopus: A database produced by Elsevier, Scopus is the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, including scientific journals, books and conference proceedings, covering research topics across all scientific and technical disciplines, ranging from medicine and social sciences to arts and humanities

Tip! Ask a medical librarian for help, if you have access to this resource.

From University of Connecticut:

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information. Unedited, firsthand access to words, images, or objects created by persons directly involved in an activity or event or speaking directly for a group. This is information before it has been analyzed, interpreted, commented upon, spun, or repackaged. Depending upon the context, these may include research reports, sales receipts, speeches, e-mails, original artwork, manuscripts, photos, diaries, personal letters, spoken stories/tales/interviews, diplomatic records, etc.

Secondary sources interpret, analyze, or summarize. Commentary upon, or analysis of, events, ideas, or primary sources. Because they are often written significantly after events by parties not directly involved but who have special expertise, they may provide historical context or critical perspectives. Examples are scholarly books, journals, magazines, criticism, interpretations, and so forth.


Tertiary sources compile, index, or organize sources. Sources which analyzed, compiled and digest secondary sources included mostly in abstracts, bibliographies, handbooks, encyclopedias, indexes, chronologies, etc.

“Grey” Literature (from the University of Toronto)

Grey Literature is any literature that has not been published through traditional means. It is often excluded from large databases and other mainstream sources. Grey literature can also mean literature that is hard to find or has inconsistent or missing bibliographic information.

Search grey literature to:

  • avoid bias
  • ensure that the review is as thorough as possible
  • find sources for negative results or brand new evidence
  • discover more references to published literature that your database search might have missed

CADTH’s “Grey Matters” guide also lists many resources.

How to Integrate Research into Practice

Tip! Create a Google Scholar alert for research articles relating to your topic of interest; In PubMed, create a login and then click“Create Alert” after running a search

Find out how to critically review a paper and why this can assist in both reading and preparing manuscripts.

Tip! The CJRT is always recruiting interested volunteers to participate in the peer review process. Contact! You get to read the latest papers in your area of expertise and practice your critical review skills. After each completed review, the peer reviewer receives educational credit letters that can be applied to your provincial CPD program. New to research? We are happy to start you off slowly and pair you with experienced reviewers for your first review.

Did you know that the CJRT encourages publication of your quality assurance/quality improvement projects? Below is a description of the Innovations in Practice format.

This article type highlights innovative approaches to, or evaluation of, any aspect of the theory or practice of respiratory therapy. This could include, without being limited to, process/protocol improvement, program evaluation, quality improvement, or practice change. These are similar in format to a research paper, but the reporting of results and analysis is less vigorous as these are a faster way of disseminating what is happening on the front lines of clinical practice, and thus do not always fall neatly into traditional research reporting. Quality improvement brings evidence into practice, while research introduces new knowledge. Note that no results are required to submit in this format, and these submissions are generally REB exempt.

Getting Started

Have you noticed a way that things could be done better? What are your next steps?

A gap is something that remains to be done or learned in an area of research; it’s a gap in the knowledge of the scientists in the field of research of your study. Every research project must, in some way, address a gap–that is, attempt to fill in some piece of information missing in the scientific literature. Otherwise, it is not novel research and is therefore not contributing to the overall goals of science.

Article from Alison Maxwell: Gap statements

Blog from the Research Whisperer: Mind the Gap – tips on framing the gap for grant applications

Tip! Check with your institution to see if you have access to a statistics advisor

Studies on patients or volunteers require ethics committee approval and informed consent which should be documented in your paper. Patients have a right to privacy.

Tip! Citation management can save you time – try these tools to capture bibliographic data: Mendeley, EndNote, Zotero

Check out these links and resources to improve your writing and editing


As a general rule, written permission must be obtained from the rightsholder in order to re-use any copyrighted material. Typically the rightsholder of published material is the publisher unless it is explicitly indicated otherwise. Copyrighted material can include figures, illustrations, charts, tables, photographs, and text excerpts. Re-use of any borrowed material must be properly acknowledged, even if it is determined that written permission is not necessary.

When is permission not required?

Written permission may not need to be obtained in certain circumstances, such as the following:

  • Public domain works are not protected by copyright and may be reproduced without permission, subject to proper acknowledgement. This includes works for which copyright has expired (for example, any US work published prior to 1923), works that are not copyrightable by law (for example, works prepared by US government employees as part of their official duties), and works expressly released into the public domain by their creators. (Permission would however be required to re-use the final formatted, edited, published version of a public domain journal article, for example, as this version is owned by the publisher.)
  • Open access content published under a CC-BY user license, as well as open access content published under other types of user licenses depending on the nature of your proposed re-use (for example, commercial vs. nonprofit use), may not require written permission, subject to proper acknowledgement. Permissions vary depending on the license type, and we recommend that readers check the license details carefully before re-using the material.
  • Creating an original figure or table from data or factual information that was not previously in figure or table format typically does not require permission, subject to proper acknowledgement of the source(s) of the data.


See CJRT Author Guidelines for more information:

Disseminating your Work

Top 4 reasons why a manuscript might be rejected without review:

  • The subject matter is not a match with the journal content
  • The article offers no new knowledge, is not novel or unique
  • The language/grammar is poor and difficult to read
  • The article contains plagiarized sections (articles are screened through plagiarism software before review)

Tip! Be sure to check the author guidelines before submitting. Here is a link to the CJRT Author Guidelines

I’ve done the work – now what? Spread the word!