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PSY 440: Physiological Psychology

This is a course guide for the course PSY 440: Physiological Psychology

Credibility for Clinical Studies

When you start researching you will encounter many different types of evidence such as systematic reviews, randomized controlled trails, clinical guidelines and opinion articles. These different resources will not all have the same "weight" in terms of reliability and trustworthiness. To assist you in determining what is the most reliable, the levels of evidence hierarchies will guide you. 

Evidence hierarchies are systems used to rank evidence according to certain criteria.

Hierarchy of Evidence

Case Controlled studies are where researchers conduct a comparison of cases with a particular outcome and cases without a particular outcome to evaluate the participants' exposure. 

Case Series/Case Report is a research design that track patients with a known exposure given similar treatment or examines their medical records for exposure and outcomes. 

Cohort Studies with a control group are those where a group of people with something in common (a cohort) are followed. This group is compared to another group with similar characteristics/circumstances, with the exception of the factor being investigated. 

Cross-Sectional studies involve data collected at a defined time, providing a snapshot of a disease in the population (observational studies). 

Meta-analysis uses statistical methods to pool the results of independent studies (quantitative). 

Meta-Synthesis is a qualitative analysis of a group of individual studies in which the finding of the studies are pooled. 

Randomized Clinical Trails is an experiment using human beings in which the investigator randomly assigns participants in the trial either to a treatment or control (no treatment) group. 


Hopp, L., & Rittenmeyer, L. (2012). Introduction to evidence-based practice: A practical guide for nursing. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

UIC Evidence Based Practice Tutorial,

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

Credibility of Sources

Filtered Information

Filtered Information appraises the quality of a study and recommend its application in practice. Filtered literature means the critical appraisal of the individual articles has been done for you. It will often provide a more definitive answer than individual research reports. 

Types of Filtered Information: 

  • Systematic Reviews 
  • Critically-appraised Topics 
  • Critically-appraised Individual Articles

Examples of Filtered Information: 

  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  • BMJ Clinical Evidence

Unfiltered Information

Unfiltered Information are original research studies that have not yet been synthesized or aggregated. They can be more difficult to read, interpret, and apply to practice. 

Types of Unfiltered Information: 

  • Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Cohort Studies 
  • Case-controlled studies
  • Case Studies
  • Case Reports

Examples of Unfiltered Information: 

  • Medline
  • PubMed