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PICO Search Strategy

PICO is a mnemomic device used to identify and define the scope of your research question.

P is for Patient, Population, or Problem (i.e. a disease or condition)

I  is for Intervention (e.g. therapy, procedure, drug, exposure, test, strategy) 

C is for Comparison (i.e. compared to an alternative intervention or an experimental control)

O is for Outcome (i.e. the consequence, effect or improvement of interest and the measurement thereof)



T is for Type of question (e.g. is your question about therapy; diagnosis; prognosis; etiology; harms; prevention) 

T is for Type of research study most likely to provide answers (e.g. systematic review; randomized controlled trial (RCT); longitudinal study; qualitative study)


Search Tips

  • use backgrounds sources from encyclopedias and dictionaries (see Background Sources page)
  • search in scholarly databases such as CINAHL for peer-reviewed articles
  • search two or three parts of your PICO at a time - not every article will cover all parts of your PICO

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