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PICO Questions: A Tutorial: Searching

This short tutorial will walk students through the purpose and process of formulating a PICO question.

Search Strategy Worksheet

Conduct your searches

Now that you have your strategy planned, you are ready to start your search. Here are some tips for a successful search:

  • Select the most appropriate database. In nursing the premiere databases are PubMed, andCINAHL. The Cochrane Library  and Joanna Briggs Institute will contain Systematic Reviews, which are considered the highest level of evidence in EBP. Some specialty databases, like PsycInfo and ERIC may also be useful.
  • Start with terms that represent your intervention.
  • Add another concept in your PICO question, such as the comparison or the outcome.
  • If your search is not relevant, revise your terms.
  • Use Boolean Logic, truncation and phrase searching when appropriate
  • Check relevant citations for subject headings. When you find one, you can click on the term to get a list of all articles in the database with that term, then add additional keywords.
  • Searching directly from the MeSH Terms or CINAHL Headings database will allow you to flag your term as a Major focus of the article or use the subheadings to focus on a specific aspect of the concept, such as prevention & control or education.
  • Use the Filters/Limiters to focus your search. This will help you create a customized set that is written in English, published within a certain date range, the publication type to limit to studies, and the appropriate age range. You may want to include systematic reviews and practice guidelines as a publication type.
  • Now you are ready to select the articles you wish to critically appraise.
  • Going through this process will reduce the number of article citation in your search retrieval, which will also reduce the time you must spend selecting relevant articles.
  • Not finding what you need? Contact the librarian for assistance.

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