Answered By: A. Marissa Smith
Last Updated: Feb 05, 2020     Views: 209

PICO(T) is a search strategy acronym used to formulating a strong clinical question. It can guide your search for evidence in the biomedical literature. Use these steps to apply PICO(T) to a search topic:

  1. Create a clinical question based on the PICO variables
  2. Organize question concepts using PICO (T), with keywords and subject terms
  3. Create a search strategy using Boolean operators
  4. Evaluate your results, revise search terms as needed, and apply database limits to refine results.


  1. Create a clinical question: Does hand washing reduce hospital acquired infections?
  2. Organize question concepts using PICO(T) with keywords and subject terms used by the database:
    Population/Problem =

    hospital acquired infection 

    cross infection

    I Intervention = hand washing  
    Comparison = hand sanitizer
    Outcomes = reduced hospital acquired infections
    (optional) Time = N/A

  3. Create a search strategy to based on the "P" and "I" variables using Boolean operators. 

    (hospital acquired infection OR cross infection) AND (hand washing)

    Create a more complete search strategy by adding the "C" "O" and "T" variables. 

    (hospital acquired infection OR cross infection) AND hand washing AND hand sanitizer
  4. Evaluate your results and revise search terms as needed. There may be times when the "O" variable is implied and keywords for that concept are not needed, and there are times with the "T" variable does not apply. Apply database limits to refine your results.


For more help using PICO(T) in specific databases:

See the Nursing Research Guide to learn more about evidence-based practice and nursing resources.

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