Skip to Main Content


Library resources for all Nursing & Health Professions programs.

Creating a Search Strategy from a PICOT Question


Use standard, developmentally relevant age-ranges 

Include relevant terms for our population, but take care to avoid redundancy if the population is implied by the intervention or outcome, or vice versa.

  • Take the following PICO, for example
    • P: Smokers
    • I: Wellbutrin
    • C: No Wellbutrin
    • O: Smoking cessation
  • The search Smokers AND Wellbutrin AND Smoking Cessation  would be redundant. The population (smokers) is implied by the outcome (smoking cessation).


Intervention is generally the focus of your search, but do not include directional terms like improve, reduce, increase, mitigate that could result in confirmation bias. 


If your comparison is usual care or no treatment, do not include this in your search strategy. 

Not all PICO questions have a comparison (prognosis and meaning questions often don’t include a C)

It’s ok just to look at the efficacy of an intervention! 


Similar to population, avoid redundancy (if you’re population is individuals with high blood pressure and your intervention is a statin, your outcome is probably implied)

Similar to intervention, avoid directional terms (improve, reduce, increase, mitigate)


Many PICOT questions do not include a time component. 

Ask A Librarian