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Searching Health Sciences Literature

Learn how to create a searchable question to find and access literature to help answer your clinical question.

Creating a Clinical Question: PICO / PICOTS

PICO is an acronym that can help you create a well-built clinical question by identifying the key aspects of a complex patient presentation. In addition to the four main concepts of a clinical questions (PICO), there are two additional factors that you can also include in your question:

  • Patient of Population or Problem: The disease or condition you are investigating, and the particular demographic you are wanting to learn about (if applicable)
  • Intervention or Indicator: Primary treatment option
  • Comparison or Control: Comparison treatment (if applicable)
  • Outcome: What you you expect to see?

 

In addition to the major PICO components, there are two additional factors you may want to include in your question:

 

  • Timeline**: Time it takes to demonstrate a clinical outcome or how long patients are observed.
  • Study Type: What kind of study would best answer this question (i.e., RCT, Case Series, etc.). Rather than using keywords in your search strategy, you can often use filters to limit to specific study types / designs.

    ** Note that the timeframe does not always show up in the abstract. If you aren't getting enough results, you may need to remove this from your search, and just eliminate results that don't fit your preferred timeframe in the Prisma screening section.

EXAMPLE PICOT QUESTION:

Does telemonitoring blood pressure in patients with hypertension improve blood pressure control within one year of initiation of the medication?

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

 

  Main concept Potential keywords Boolean search using combined terms

P

Patient or Problem

hypertension

  • high blood pressure
  • hypertensive
  • MeSH = hypertension

(hypertension OR hypertensive OR high blood pressure))

I

Intervention or Indicator

telemonitoring blood pressure
  • telemonitor
  • MeSH = "Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory"

telemonitor

AND

"Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory"[Mesh]

C

Comparison or Control

n/a

 

 

O

Outcome   

improve blood pressure control
  • MeSH = "blood pressure"
(blood pressure OR arterial pressure)

T

Timeframe

within one year
  • one year
  • twelve months
(one year OR twelve months)

FINAL BOOLEAN SEARCH:

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

Get additional information about PICO:

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