Sixty-five years of physical therapy: Bibliometric analysis of research publications from 1945 through 2010

Louise Wiles, Lisa Matricciani, Marie Williams, Timothy Olds

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The generation of research can be likened to the production of consumer goods, with a producer (the study authors and funders), a product (the study and publications arising from it), and consumers (those who read and cite the published study). Objective. The aim of this study was to use bibliometric indexes to track changes in the producers, products, and consumers of the journal Physical Therapy from 1945 through 2010. Design. An analysis of published manuscripts (excluding letters, editorials, corrections, commentaries, and book reviews) in Physical Therapy was performed using a reliable bibliometric audit tool. Articles were sampled every 3 months and at 5-year intervals over a 65-year period. Information relating to authorship, the research methods used, and citation patterns was collected. Data were analyzed descriptively. Results. There have been substantial shifts in the nature of research published over the last 65 years in Physical Therapy. In 1945, the typical paper was anecdotal and authored by 1.4 American authors (working in hospitals), and consisted of 4 pages and 4 references. In 2010, the typical paper used a cross-sectional survey or randomized controlled trial design, with 4.6 multinational authors (working in universities), and consisted of 12 pages and 49 references. Limitations. Findings are specific to the articles published in Physical Therapy that were sampled in this bibliometric analysis. Conclusions. The changes seen in the research published in Physical Therapy mirror the shifts that have occurred in other industries: increasing quantification, standardization, collaboration, and internationalization. These trends are likely to continue in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-506
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this