The current state of OT literature

The Paper(s)
Gutman, S. A., Brown, T., & Ho, Y. S. (2017). A Bibliometric Analysis of Highly Cited and High Impact Occupational Therapy Publications by American Authors. Occupational therapy in health care, 31(3), 167-187.

and...Potter, J. (2010),

and...Brown, T., Gutman, S. A., Ho, Y. S., & Fong, K. N. (2018).

The Problem
To practice as a modern, evidence based OT means we stay connected to our academic literature. But we can’t effectively conduct or implement research without having an understanding of the current state of it.

But what is the current state of OT literature?

The Solution
Several teams over the past decades have conducted “bibliometric analysis” to give us a sense of the overall picture of our OT literature.

The Outcome
An Overview of OT literature:

The first OT specific journal dates all the way back to 1922 with Archives of Occupational Therapy (by the AOTA) which eventually evolved into AJOT.  The Canadian and British journals of OT had their start in the 1930s, the Australian journal beginning in 1958 and several others in the 1980s.

  • In the past 2 decades, more than 5000 OT-related articles were written.
    Most (96%) were written in English with the next most common languages being German (2.5%), French (<1%), Spanish (0.5%) and Portugese (0.5%).  Very few articles were written in other languages (less than 2 over a span of 20 years).

  • The top 10 countries for publication were: US, Canada, Australia, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong (accounted for 89% of the articles published)

  • The most published institutions were: The University of Queensland in Australia (n=189), The University of Toronto (n = 90) and McMaster University (n = 70), both in Canada, and the University of Sydney in Australia (n = 70)

  • Articles were published in a whopping 821 different journals!  Most of which had only a single OT specific article.

  • The articles also calculated the most high impact/intensity authors as:

    • Dr. Ted Brown

    • Dr. Stephen J. Page

    • Dr. Jane Case-Smith

    • Dr. Laura N. Gitlin

    • Dr. Maureen E. Neistadt

    • Dr. Mona Eklund

    • Dr. Sylvia Rodger

  • Overall, there's a steady consistency in the number of articles published up until 2006, following which there's a large increase in the number of studies published per year. 

  • 48% of all studies were never cited in subsequent studies - meaning they were not obviously built directly upon in future research.  

  • The most frequent subject matter published covers: rehabilitation; clinical neurology; and public, environmental, and occupational health

  • There is a 10-year period between the time of publication, and the peak number of citations an article receives

In the past few decades, over 5000 OT related articles have been published in thousands of different academic journals.  The amount of published research is on the rise each year.

It might seem impossible to keep up with everything - but only a very small slice of the literature actually relates to your particular day-to-day practice; and most of the thousands of papers aren’t directly OT specific, but encompass other disciplines like psychology and medicine as well.

P.S  Databases like OTseeker and OT-specific journals like AJOT can help you more quickly narrow down helpful information specific to your OT practice.