This module should take you 45 minutes to complete. Click the green button above to begin.
The information below is covered in the module, but is here for your review if needed.
Using the PICO method can really help with framing a research question. It also helps you see the individual parts of your research that will need coverage in a literature review.
PICO is a tool, most often used in health-related research, for distilling the essential components of a research topic into concepts. Finding relevant health-related information is often easier if you break down your research topic by developing a PICO question. Your proposed research question may not have all of the elements of PICO, but will likely have most parts. PICO is an acronym for:
How would you describe this group of patients similar to yours? What are the most important characteristics of the patient(s)? What sorts of participants, from where, with what features?
What is the main intervention, treatment, or exposure? What do you want to do for the patient?
What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention? At times your question may not have a comparison!
What are you aiming to accomplish, measure, improve, make an impact on? Are you trying to eliminate or relieve symptoms? Reduce the number or severity of adverse effects? Improve functions?
By this point in your college career, you have had a chance to search library databases. You understand that you need keywords (not sentences) when you search a database. However, using health science terminology might be new territory.
Natural language refers to the common way that we speak in everyday life. Database language refers to how a database classifies a concept and is usually very technical. Though most databases are great at matching natural language entered with database terminology, it’s important for you to begin recognizing medical terminology. Some examples include:
|Natural Language||Database Language|
|Heart attack||Myocardial infarction|
|ACL||Anterior Cruciate Ligament|
Synonyms and related terms for the word cardiac arrest death include:
Synonyms and related terms for young athletes might include:
Now that you've formulated a research question and developed some keywords, it's time to create a search strategy. Each of the following sections will help you build and properly conduct your search.
These operators can be used in Library databases, but also work really well in Google! They are important for creating efficient, effective searches.
Expands the search.
Used to string synonyms together.
Results include all articles with any of the terms used.
(all results including the words "hand washing" as well as all results including the words "hand hygiene")
Narrows the search.
All retrieved results must include all terms connected with AND.
AND usually combines different concepts together in one search.
AND is assumed between words in Google.
(only results that include both the terms "hospital infection" and "antibiotic")
Excludes results with a specific term.
Really handy to eliminate unwanted search results.
(all results with the term "antibiotic", but excluding those with the term "penicillin")
Use quotation marks to search for phrases. Phrase searching is excellent when the desired result is specificity.
CAUTION! Do NOT use phrase searching in PubMed! It turns off Automatic Term Mapping. Just don't do it!
Google site searching can help search across various government websites or can help you better search poorly indexed websites. Site searches should be typed into the browser search bar (where the web address is located).
Let's revisit a research question from earlier in the tutorial and construct some good searches.
It is now time to construct your search strategy. You may choose to organize your thoughts into a chart, as shown below using a modified version of our question from Step 2 as an example:
Does hand washing (I) amongst healthcare workers (P) reduce healthcare facility acquired infections(O)? (No hand washing is the (C).)
|Synonyms for Concept #1 (I)||Hand washing||OR||Handwashing||OR||Hand hygiene||OR||Hand disinfection|
|Synonyms for Concept #2 (O)||Healthcare facility acquired infection||OR||Hospital acquired infections||OR||Nosocomial infections||OR||Healthcare associated infections|
|Synonyms for Concept #3 (P)||Healthcare workers||OR||Health personnel||OR||Healthcare provider||OR||Health professional|
The idea here is to combine synonyms and concepts in different ways for multiple searches. Combining your terms should reduce the overall number of searches needed. Example search strategies: