UTS Library

Evidence Based Practice: PICO Assignment

In this guide:

Study Guide for Evidence for Nursing  (PICO assignment)

Step 1: View Tutorials via UTS Library's YouTube channel

There are four, one for each database:  

Please note that these tutorials were created 12 months ago. The methodology for searching and the databases themselves have not changed however you may notice that some of the number of results may vary when you try doing the same searches. 

Step 2: Read through the Searching Tips attachment while you try doing the searches yourself.

This should also give you a good general understanding to apply to your own PICO question and also includes information on how to choose the right database. Alternatively, watch the YouTube videos in a window beside your own live database search. Practice with the sample scenario first and then try adapting that to your own scenario.

Step 3: Create a PICO question from your assigned scenario. This will help you identify search terms.

PICO stands for:

  • Population
  • Intervention
  • Comparison
  • Outcome

Usually the most important to focus on is the Intervention. You want to find evidence that your Intervention actually works! 

Using PICO to formulate a search question   

Turning search terms into a search    (Tutorials from Bodleian Health Care library at Oxford University) 

Step 4: Further Help

How do I access library databases?

The databases you will use are located at UTS library> Find Databases > Health> Evidence Based Practice, use your UTS email login to log on the databases.

How many keywords/concepts should I use to search my scenario?

Depending on your topic, you may find that searching concepts relating to your Intervention and Population will be enough. Remember you need to leave yourself with a large enough set so you can still limit to your Randomised Controlled Trial (when searching Medline or CINAHL). 

What should I do if my search retrieves no result?

This happens when your keyword is too narrow - or if you have combined too many concepts. Try doing one of these:

  • Choose a broader concept
  • Remove one of the concepts you have searched
  • Use synonyms. For example, you can try searching for "hand hygiene" as well as "hand washing". Combine multiple synonyms with OR

When search In CINAHL and MEDLINE, what should I do if I can't find an appropriate subject heading to match my concept?

Search by subject heading will retrieve more comprehensive and accurate results. However don't give up if you can't find an appropriate subject heading, try to use synonyms of that term and search via keyword.  The best articles may actually be indexed with a different subject heading.

If you still can't find a good subject heading, select the option "search by keywords" which is listed in the bottom of the suggested heading terms. It is often a good idea to include a subject heading as well as Keyword for each concept - combine these synonymous sets with OR.

More advanced information on how to search systematically

Where do I find Randomized Controlled Trials in CINAHL?

In CINAHL, Randomized Controlled Trials can be selected by clicking on "Refine your search results" (on the top left side of your search result screen)> "Show more" (under the date slider) > "Publication Types"

Where do I find Randomized Controlled Trials in MEDLINE or EMBASE?

In MEDLINE and EMBASE, Randomized Controlled Trials can be selected from "Publication Types" on the "Additional Limits" page (select link above your research results).

How do I find Practice Guidelines in the Trip Database?

Trip is also a free database based on freely available material. It includes many Clinical Practice Guidelines (limiter on the right side of the screen calls them "Guidelines") which are available freely on the internet and these are made available by a variety of government organisations and hospitals. Trip is listed in Find Databases with the Evidence Based Practice databases under Health.

How do I show my Search History?

Check the Searching Tips document for information on how. This will vary depending on your database. Basically you need to provide enough information to allow someone else to replicate your search. Several databases (including Medline and CINAHL) have a Search History table which you can copy or screen capture and paste into your work.


Step 5: Attend a Face to Face Session in the Library

Many students will find that viewing the videos and working through the searching tips will be sufficient information to be well underway with doing the assessment task. If you need more help, attend a workshop in the library in week 2 or 3 - these are being held at both City and Kuring-gai campuses and can be booked via the events page on the library website.   However, you need to attempt to compile your PICO question and develop your search strategy before you come to the session. If you have specific questions, post them on the Library Search Discussion Board in UTS Online for Evidence for Nursing.  It’s very likely that others will be asking similar questions.