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Literature Searching: Advanced Searching: PICO

Follow our step-by-step guide to help you carry out a good literature search

Develop your research question and search strategy

Sometimes it helps to write an answerable question that begins and ends with a patient, population, or problem. This helps to develop a clinical research and/or EBP question. Using PICO or PEO  for developing searchable and answerable clinical questions are useful tools during the research process.

 

What is PICO?

PICO is most widely used in quantitative research questions:

 

e.g.

Try using  the PICO search option in TRIP  for systematic reviews, meta analyses etc.

 

USING PICO TO FORM THE RESEARCH QUESTION

Is Chemotherapy (intervention) more efficient than Surgery (comparison) in managing stage 1 breast cancer (problem) for women patients (population)?

*Note: It is not necessary to use every element in PICO or to have both a problem and population in your question. PICO is a tool that helps researchers frame an answerable EBP question. 

Other Models

The FINER and SPIDER models can be useful for qualitative, quantitative and mixed methodology:

For more information, have a look at these articles:

Beyond PICO: The SPIDER Tool for Qualitative Evidence Synthesis

(for off campus access, click on institutional login, then UK, university of dundee & then your own username and password)

Formulating a researchable question: A critical step for facilitating good clinical research

What is PEO?

PEO is most useful for qualitative research questions:

 

e.g.

USING PEO TO FORM THE RESEARCH QUESTION

Does the quality of life (outcome or theme) change when women on HRT (population and problems) are diagnosed with breast cancer (exposure)?

Useful Resource