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Research Competencies for Occupational Therapy

Developed by AOTF's Academic Development Committee, these Research Competencies were approved by the AOTA Representative Assembly in 1998. They are intended to provide support for educators working to meet the ACOTE Standards for Education.

Research is a way of discovering knowledge through the systematic investigation of a phenomenon or problem.

  1. Purpose of this document
    1. To foster the development of research competencies at the technical, professional, and post-professional levels.
    2. To provide guidelines for evaluation of research competencies for students, faculty, and clinicians.
    3. To guide research activities in the field, relative to the appropriate roles of students, faculty, and clinicians.
  2. Assumptions
    1. All practitioners in the field should be prepared at their respective levels to be consumers of research.
    2. All practitioners involved in research should apply ethical principles in their own behavior, treatment of human subjects, and in data reporting.
    3. Entry-level education does not readily support the development of advanced research skills.
    4. Research knowledge and skills are viewed developmentally; that is, researchers at more advanced levels continue to display the competencies of earlier levels.
    5. At entry-level, research skills and competencies are more generic and as researchers continue to develop their competencies, they tend to become more skilled in specific research traditions.
  3. Developmental sequence of competence levels:

    Six levels of competence are delineated developmentally. Typically, people move from one level to the other via formal education, although some people may advance through work experience only. It is assumed that each level requires the competencies of earlier levels. Thus, they are not listed more than once.
    1. Basic competencies that support research: This level of competence is achieved following technical education and basic professional education. These basic competencies support engagement in research and are drawn on and amplified in the research process.
      • Practical skills
        • Find and use resources
        • Select resource persons
        • Use the library and information technology effectively
        • Recognize and know when to use primary and secondary resources
        • Observe and record behavior
        • Demonstrate basic computer competency
      • Problem solving, thinking, and communication skills
        • Understand the difference between subjective and objective information
        • Recognize when information provided is sufficient and when it is not
        • Evaluate whether the basis for conclusions is laid out completely and clearly
        • Generate questions by recognizing gaps in knowledge
        • Use oral and written communication to express ideas effectively
      • Values
        • Appreciate the necessity and value of research for competent clinical practice
      • Ethics
        • Follow the AOTA ethical principles in relation to research activities
    2. Entry-level OTA practice: This level is achieved following technical education and includes the basic research competencies listed above. Two major roles are applicable to this level: consumer of research and assistant to a research investigator.
      • Consumer of research
        • Roles and functions - Apply knowledge from within OT and related fields in cooperation with the occupational therapist
        • Competencies - Base practice on established principles supported by research in cooperation with the occupational therapist
        • Evaluation - In cooperation with the occupational therapist, base practice decisions on current research
      • Assistant to a research investigator
        • Roles and functions- Carry out specified research functions as an assistant to an investigator
        • Competencies
          • Follow a research protocol and related documentation with care and accuracy
          • Maintain confidentiality while collecting data and during the entire research process
        • Evaluation
          • Investigator judges that the assistant followed the protocol in collecting the data.
    3. Entry-level OT practice: This level is achieved following basic professional education. Three major roles are applicable at this level: consumer of research, assistant to a research investigator, and beginning research investigator.
      • Consumer of research
        • Roles and functions
          • Apply knowledge from within OT and related fields
          • Base practice on established principles supported by research and theory
        • Competencies
          • Identify resources in relation to a problem in clinical practice
          • Demonstrate knowledge about recognized experts in area
          • Evaluate and critique research articles
          • Identify, evaluate, and draw logical conclusions from theory and available data in relation to questions of practice
        • Evaluation: Practice decisions are based on current research and theory
      • Assistant to a research investigator
        • Roles and functions:
          • Carry out specified research functions as an assistant to an investigator
        • Competencies
          • All competencies listed under Entry Level OTA Practice
          • Reflect on the data and its meaning: reasoning about which aspects of the data collection process contributed to the results
        • Evaluation
          • Demonstrate the ability to report competently on the research that was conducted
      • Beginning research investigator
        • Roles and functions
          • Demonstrate the ability to design and implement beginning research studies that evaluate clinical practice and service delivery
        • Competencies
          • Develop the basic skills necessary to conduct practice-related research studies
          • Know how to consult with an experienced researcher in relationship to research design and data analysis
          • Develop the basic skills required for the publication of research reports
          • Develop a basic understanding of securing grants
        • Evaluation
          • Change clinical practice based on outcome studies and other research
    4. Advanced professional practice: This level typically follows post-professional education in OT or masters degree in a related field. Three major roles are applicable at this level: Master clinician/clinical educator/manager, administrator, academic educator.
      • Master Clinician / Clinical educator / Manager
        • Roles and functions
          • Teach or guide others about the implications of research for practice
          • Evaluate outcomes of clinical programs
        • Competencies
          • Present research-based reports or summaries at regional and national conferences
          • Publish in newsletters and professional journals
          • Design outcome research and/or program evaluation studies
        • Evaluation
          • Change clinical practice based on outcome studies or other relevant research
          • Supervisees increase research competencies
      • Administrator
        • Roles and functions
          • Identify areas of practice in which research is lacking
          • Participate in the development and evaluation of clinical programs (e.g. treatment, in-service education, referral systems)
          • Support the conduct of research and the utilization of research findings in staff
          • Analyze outcomes of administrative programs
        • Competencies
          • Present research-based reports or summaries at regional and national conferences
          • Publish in newsletters and professional journals
          • Design outcome research and/or program evaluation studies
        • Evaluation
          • Uses analysis of outcome studies to direct administrative changes
    5. Researcher: This level typically follows additional graduate work, e.g. doctoral education, post-doctoral education.
      • Roles and functions
        • Engage in scholarly activities that will contribute to the development of a body of knowledge relevant to the profession of occupational therapy
      • Competencies
        • Design and implement research studies
        • Publish research-based reports in major journals in occupational therapy and other journals outside the profession.
        • Write research proposals directed at small funding sources
      • Evaluation
        • Research cited by others
        • External funding supports research activities
    6. Independent investigator and scholar: This level typically follows additional graduate work, e.g. doctoral education, post-doctoral education.
      • Roles and functions
        • Act as an independent investigator or engages in scholarly activities that will contribute to the development of a body of knowledge relevant to the profession of occupational therapy
      • Competencies
        • Design and implement a series of studies which address a significant issue
        • Write research proposals directed at major funding sources
        • Supervise research assistants and other scholars
        • Publish in major journals within and outside the profession
        • Contribute to the development of theory within own area of study
      • Evaluation
        • Recognized as a scholar by others through citations
        • Achieves research funding from major sources

3/22/99
Academic Development Committee
Research Advisory Council, AOTF