Skip to Main Content
Banner Image
WNHS Internet |   WNHS Hub |  HealthPoint |   WA Health Library Sites
Contact Us!

Research: PICO to Search Strategy

Focus the Question

Use PICOT to formulate a clinical question and identify keywords for your search.

For example:

Your patient is a thirty year old woman, 14 weeks pregnant with her first child.  On an initial antenatal visit she is found to have a BMI of 32, putting her in the obese range.  You are concerned about the risk of adverse outcomes for the woman and her baby, especially if she gains a lot of weight during her pregnancy.  You wonder whether dietary or lifestyle interventions could help your patient limit her weight gain during the remainder of her pregnancy.


P = Patient or Population or Problem

"thirty year old woman, 14 weeks pregnant with her first child.....BMI of 32"

Keywords: pregnant, pregnancy, prenatal, antenatal, obese, overweight, pregnant, pregnancy, prenatal, antenatal

I = Intervention

"dietary or lifestyle interventions"

Keywords: lifestyle, diet, exercise

C = Comparison

usual care

O = Outcome

"limit her weight gain during pregnancy"

Keywords: weight gain, excessive weight

T = Type of study

Question = therapy; study type = RCT or systematic review


Further help

Tutorials on formulating a clinical question

The well-built clinical question: a key to evidence-based decisions. Richardson, WS. et al. ACP Journal Club, v123:A12, Nov-Dec, 1995.

Formulating Answerable Questions  CEBM University of Toronto

Search Strategy

Use keywords identified in the PICOT to form a search strategy:

obese OR overweight


pregnant OR pregnancy OR antenatal OR prenatal


lifestyle OR diet OR exercise


weight gain OR excessive weight

Use the type of study to consider applying limits:

limit to Systematic Reviews or RCTs


The table below explains how Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) work