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Effective Database Searching: PICO Framework

This guide to key library databases helps you decide which databases to use and assists you in searching them more effectively.

PICO Framework


Format a well-focused clinical question using the elements of the PICO framework to facilitate creating an effective search strategy1:

P = Patient, Population or Problem

I = Intervention or Exposure

C = Comparison or Control (if applicable)

O = Outcome(s)

Example of a therapy-type question: In patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, is physical therapy more effective than medication in relieving pain?

                                                                                                               I                                    C                         O

*Use the PICO formatting tool for additional help in formulating your question.*

For more details, see PICO components and Question Type examples

1. Schardt, C., Adams, M. B., Owens, T., Keitz, S., & Fontelo, P. (2007). Utilization of the PICO framework to improve searching PubMed for clinical questions. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 7, 16. doi: