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Occupational Therapy

subject resources and library services for Occupational Therapy students, staff and faculty

Turn Your PICO into Research Gold

Using some basic search logic you can take your PICO question's main concepts of Population, Intervention, and Comparison and plug them into a formula to create a search that will work on most of the disciplinary research databases.

One of the most basic formulas that you can use to make a PICO question work is:

Population AND (Intervention OR Outcome)

in some cases, a population may be more complicated to conceptualize, so here's an example:

"Children with anxiety" AND (medication OR "cognitive behavioral therapy")

because of how this search may turn out, however, we want to think about how to conceptualize our population. Anxiety can be classified a few different ways in medical and psychological literature, so it is important to separate between anxiety as a feeling and anxiety as a disorder. Similarly, with EBP it is often good to become specific with a population if possible, as the medical and psychological communities will divide children into age groups for study purposes.

("School-aged Children" AND "anxiety disorders") AND (medication OR "cognitive behavioral therapy")

Improve Your Search!

If you noticed above, i used AND, OR, parentheses, and quotation marks. These are universal ways that can help make your search more effective.

  • "quotation marks" = use for two or more words that need to be read together as a phrase in order.
    • You do not need to put quotation marks around one word, but for multiple word conditions, such as "Polycystic Ovary Syndrome," use quotes.
  • (Parentheses) = these work to separate out groups of concepts, like in the order of operations in math.
    • if you have one concept with several related terms, group those together in parentheses, such as ("air pollution" OR "particulate matter" OR NO2 OR "nitrogen dioxide" OR PM2.5). Groups of parentheses can be combined with others, and can be useful in creating very complex searches.
  • The asterisk* = Use as a "wildcard."
    • For example, if I use the word Therap* in my search, that will provide results for therapy, therapies, therapeutic, therapists, etc. Can be used in Parentheses (Physical AND therap*) or (hoarding NOT animal*), but not in quotation marks.
  • AND = This connects conceptual groups. It tells the search engine to "bring me both of these together." Use in all caps! (if it's not in all caps, the search engine will ignore it)
  • OR = This connects groups of similar terms or synonyms. It tell the search engine to "bring me one, the other, or both together." use in all caps! (if it's not in all caps, the search engine will ignore it)
  • NOT = This excludes terms, phrases, or roots of words (using the asterisk). It tells the search engine  "Do not bring me this." use in all caps! (if it's not in all caps, the search engine will ignore it)