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NURS 425 - RN1 - Evidence-Based Practice - Dr. Dawn Henderson: PICOT Question and Topic

Fall 2019

Records! Why Searching a Database is Different Than Searching Google

What do your search terms match up against? How will knowing that affect the strategy you use when searching a database as opposed to Google?

Smarter Searching.

Understanding what you are searching helps you become a smart searcher. Using Boolean Logic allows you to "talk to the computer" and get the results you want! So what is Boolean Logic, anyway?

Boolean logic - use AND, OR, NOT (sometimes AND NOT) to connect two or more search terms:

  • AND finds all records with all of your search terms and narrows your search
  • OR finds all records with one or more of your search terms and broadens your search
  • NOT or AND NOT is used to exclude the following term and can help to focus a search where one term has different meanings or uses (e.g., Mexico NOT "New Mexico")

Phrases in Quotes - most databases and web search engines allow you to search for exact phrases by placing them in quotes:

  • "snapchat" or "online dating"

Truncation - the library catalog and most databases use special characters to make searching easier in certain situations. Check the help screens in the catalog or database you are using to see what the special characters are for that resource.

  • the asterisk * is often used to stand for mutliple endings on a word (singular, plural, etc.): vot* finds vote, voter, voters
  • wildcards are similar, but replace another character in a word: wom?n in the library catalog finds both woman and women

Nesting - use parentheses to sort out the elements of a more complex Boolean search phrase, especially when you may want to search for more than one related term for one element of your phrase:

  • (internet OR snapchat) AND privacy
  • ("online dating" OR tinder) AND success

Please see the video below for more detailed information:


Formulating and Writing Your Clinical Question

Using the PICOT Method: P (Population) I (Intervention) C (Comparison) O (Outcome), T (Time) to describe your question in writing.

An example of a question and how to describe it might be:

I am looking for articles representing evidence about what can be done to prevent falls in the elderly.  In particular, I would like to know what evidence is available about the prevention of falls in elderly.  I am particularly interested in the use of fall risk assessment to prevent falls in the elderly. 

What is the population?  Older adults, in the hospital or long-term care facilities

What is the intervention?  Falls risk assessment

What is the Comparison?  In this case, there is no comparison intervention or standard of care.

What is Outcome?  Prevention of falls

What is the time it takes to meet the outcome of the intervention?  In this case, time is not measured.

Possible Keywords for Database Searching

(elderly or aged or older adults)


(falls risk assessment or fall risk assessment)


(nursing or nursing assessment)     

Other Tips

Look for limiters relevant to a part of your PICO question. Some databases have limiters for age and gender, for example.

Your intervention is the most important part of your question as a subject for searching.

Make sure you know the kind of article you need. Use limiters like "peer reviewed" or "research article" or for a specific type, like "systematic review."

Books that May Be Helpful