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Using PICOT to Find Search Terms

For this assignment, you will be working on finding evidence to help answer a clinical question using PICO(T) / PEO. Your group should already have a draft question that you previously worked on together.

In preparation for the library session, please bring the PICO(T) / PEO question that your group previously came up with to class. We will begin working on turning your group's clinical question into a search.


Okay, so you have your clinical question: now what?

PICOT is not meant to be prescriptive, but is just a way to pull apart the main concepts of a clinical question. You should be able to extract search terms or concepts from each of your main points. For example:

For each major concept in your question, you should be able to pull out some search terms, as well as brainstorming other potential keywords. These could be synonyms, medical terminology, or controlled vocabulary used by a database (subject headings). We’ll talk more about subject headings in class, so don’t worry about that for now! At this point, just come to class with your PICOT question, and be ready to brainstorm with your group about keywords.

PICOT Example

Does telemonitoring blood pressure (I) in patients with hypertension (P) improve blood pressure control (O) within one year of initiation of the medication (T)?


Patient or Problem = hypertension

KEYWORDS: hypertension, high blood pressure, hypertensive

Intervention = telemonitoring blood pressure

KEYWORDS: telemonitor, telemedicine, MeSH term is “Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory”

Comparison = n/a

Outcome = improve blood pressure

MeSH term is “Blood Pressure” (but if you are using terms for “telemonitoring blood pressure,” this is unnecessary).

Timeframe = within one year

one year, twelve months (searching for timeframes can be tricky -- this won't find studies that were less than 12 months! If your results are too limited, you can try removing this from your search).


Potential search strategy:

hypertension OR hypertensive OR high blood pressure  AND
telemonitor OR telemedicine OR "Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory"[Mesh]  AND
one year OR twelve months

or if you search everything in a single line:

(hypertension OR hypertensive OR high blood pressure) AND (telemonitor OR telemedicine OR "Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory"[Mesh]) AND (one year OR twelve months)

Want to see an example in action? Check out the video below.

PICOT example begins at the 3:00 mark.


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