Date Presented 04/01/2022

This study determined which statistical methods are most commonly used in the occupational therapy (OT) literature by reviewing and categorizing all articles in 13 core OT journals from January 2018 - December 2018 (1,223 articles). The results of this study can help to better inform OT curricula as to which methods should be emphasized in teaching to prepare practitioners as evidence-based clinicians. These findings can also help inform clinicians seeking continuing education on statistics.

Primary Author and Speaker: Susan S. McDonald

Additional Authors and Speakers: David Levine

PURPOSE: Occupational Therapy is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science, and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) emphasizes producing clinicians that are skilled in delivering evidence-based care. Standard B6.1 states that occupational therapists should be prepared to “Locate, select, analyze, and evaluate scholarly literature to make evidence-based decisions” (ACOTE, 2018). Likewise, standard 6.1 (OTA) states that OTAs should be prepared to “Locate and demonstrate understanding of professional literature, including the quality of the source of information, to make evidence-based practice decisions in collaboration with the occupational therapist” (ACOTE, 2018). A foundational understanding of statistics is necessary for occupational therapy practitioners (occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants) to analyze and evaluate the scientific literature. Previous studies have sought to determine the most commonly cited journals in occupational therapy (Brown, 2017; Potter, 2010), but no known studies have been conducted with the purpose of identifying the most prevalent statistical methods being utilized. The purpose of this research study was to determine which statistical methods are most commonly used in occupational therapy literature and, consequently, which methods should be emphasized in occupational therapy curriculums.

DESIGN: This descriptive study first utilized a literature search to find the most commonly used journals within occupational therapy. Articles by Potter (2010) and Brown (2017) described the journals that are the most often reviewed for evidence-based practice within occupational therapy, and were used to compile a comprehensive list of journals to be referenced within the current research. Thirteen core occupational therapy journals were selected for review. From the selected journals, articles were selected for data analysis if they were published from January 2018 to December 2018. The articles included research reports, systematic reviews, scientific articles, original contributions, clinical investigations, case reports, case studies, or brief reports (1,223 articles).

METHOD: Prior to data collection, a total of 20 articles were assigned to the researchers to independently categorize based on the previous work of Roush (2015). Fleiss’ kappa was used to determine the degree of agreement between raters for each statistical category and agreement ranged from .77-1.0, indicating substantial agreement among reviewers. Investigators then categorized each individual study based on the work of Roush (2015) in a database.

RESULTS: The results of this study identified the top 25 statistics ranked from highest to lowest frequency and also identified the number of studies that were quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods. Descriptive statistics were the most commonly used (89.3% of studies), followed by t-tests (31.2%), confidence intervals (30.1%), chi square (23.1%), effect size (23.1%), and ANOVAs (20.1%). The majority of articles reviewed used quantitative methods (60.1%), followed by mixed-methods (28.4%), and qualitative (11.5%).

CONCLUSION: We recommended that OT curricula utilize the findings of this study to help inform decisions regarding which statistical methods to focus on in curricular coursework to optimally prepare evidence based practitioners to evaluate and utilize scientific literature. These findings can also help inform clinicians seeking continuing education on statistical knowledge.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2021). ACOTE Accreditation Standards. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from

Brown, T., Gutman, S. A., Ho, Y.-S., and Fong, K. N. K. (2017). Highly cited occupational therapy articles in the science citation index expanded and social sciences citation index: A bibliometric analysis. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(6), 7106300010.

Potter, J. (2010). Mapping the literature of occupational therapy: An update. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 98(3): 235-242.

Roush, J., Farris, J. W., Bordenave, L. M., Sesso, S., Benson, A. M., Millikan, C. (2015). Commonly used statistical methods in the journals associated with physical therapy and physiotherapy. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 29(1): 5-9.