OTseeker - Occupational Therapy Systematic Evaluation of Evidence

History of OTseeker

1. Origins

The database was only an idea when 65 occupational therapists met in March 2001 in Brisbane, Queensland for an International Symposium on Evidence-Based Occupational Therapy. Presentations were made by professionals from other disciplines, including physiotherapy. PEDro, the Physiotherapy Evidence Database had already been developed by a group in Sydney. The possibility of developing an occupational therapy evidence database was discussed at length, particularly by a sub-group from Australia. Research had already been conducted on barriers to evidence-based occupational therapy (Bennett et al, 2003; McCluskey, 2003), and preferred strategies for disseminating research to occupational therapists in Australia (Bennett et al, 2003).

As a result of this 1-day symposium, several multi-national working groups were established. The aim of the groups was to plan effective strategies for collecting, disseminating and classifying evidence related to occupational therapy practice.

The OTseeker team began considering possible funding sources for the database, and set about writing multiple grant applications. Support, encouragement and practical help were generously provided by the developers of the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) at the Centre for Evidence-Based Physiotherapy in Sydney.

2. The team

A team of six people was responsible for developing the OTseeker database. The team included occupational therapists from two Australian universities:

University of Queensland (School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences):
  • Dr Kryss McKenna
  • Dr Sally Bennett
  • Professor Jenny Strong
  • Dr Leigh Tooth
  • Dr Tammy Hoffmann
The University of Sydney
  • Dr Annie McCluskey

3. Obtaining financial support

To date OTseeker has been developed and maintained with generous funding from the Motor Accidents Authority of New South Wales, Occupational Therapy Australia, The Occupational Therapists Board of Queensland, The College of Occupational Therapists (UK) and the Canadian Occupational Therapy Association. Infrastructure has been provided from the University of Queensland, The University of Sydney, and University of Western Sydney.

4. Development of the database

Commencing in 2002, work began to locate, collect, and rate randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews relevant to occupational therapy. Automatic alerts were developed for the major databases to alert the project manager of new research articles which could be included in the database.

Staff were trained in critically appraising randomised controlled trials using the PEDro scale (partitioned) according to 8 internal validity criteria and 2 items about statistical reporting. A reliability study to examine the inter-rater reliability of the PEDro scale (partitioned) was published indicating the PEDro scale (partitioned) is a reliable instrument for identifying the presence or absence of specific criteria regarding the internal validity (or risk of bias) of RCTs.

Tooth, L., Bennett, S., McCluskey, A., Hoffmann, T., McKenna, K., & Lovarini, M. (2005). Appraising the quality of randomized controlled trials: Inter-rater reliability for the OTseeker evidence database. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 11, 547-555.

5. OTseeker at 10 years old

In March 2003 the OTseeker website was launched at www.otseeker.com At that time there were only 1400 articles indexed in the database. Ten years later in 2013 there are approximately 10,000 articles indexed in OTseeker. Given the rapid increase in the number of randomised controlled trials being published relevant to occupational therapy, in the future it will not be possible for the OTseeker team to rate all new trials that are entered into the database. However, we will seek to provide enhanced resources for therapists to be able to rate trials themselves and provide ratings for some trials where possible.

During the last 10 years some key resources added to the website included the Injury Management Resource and the Implementing Evidence in Practice Resource.

The Injury Management Resource was designed to help occupational therapists to be able to locate research about injury management. The research that is indexed in the “Injury Management Resource” includes not only systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials, but also research about assessments, long term outcomes, clinical guidelines and qualitative research relevant for occupational therapists working in injury management. You can access this resource via the OTseeker homepage.

The “Implementing Evidence in Practice” Resource explains processes to help overcome research practice gaps (sometimes referred to as knowledge translation). It also contains a series of informative podcast interviews with clinicians and researchers about how they implemented research in practice.

OTseeker will continue to evolve. In 2013 in response to feedback from a survey of many people using OTseeker, the website was upgraded to improve the search features available. New resources will continue to be added in future.

6. The future of OTseeker

The maintenance and future development of OTseeker is dependent on ongoing funding. Any organisation or individual interested in providing funding to support the ongoing maintenance of OTseeker is encouraged to contact the OTseeker project manager (details on Contacts page).

The OTseeker team intends to add new research to OTseeker on an ongoing basis so that professionals and consumers can access the best evidence about the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions.


Bennett, S., Tooth, L., McKenna. K., Rodger, S., Strong, J., Ziviani, J., Mickan, S., & Gibson, L. (2003). Perceptions of evidence based practice: A survey of occupational therapists. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Vol 50 (1), pp13-22.

McCluskey, A. (2003). Occupational therapists report a low level of knowledge, skill and involvement in evidence-based practice. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Vol 50 (1), pp 3-12.