Identify the major concepts of your question, using the PICO mnemonic, then find synonyms for each concept. Doing this before you start searching helps identify the key ideas of your topic, so you know what terms to use in your search.
P = patient / population / problem
What are the most important characteristics of the patient or group of patients?
I = intervention / exposure
What intervention are you considering for this patient?
C = comparison
What, if any, is the alternative being considered?
O = outcome
What are you hoping to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?
Sometimes you may use PICOTT, which includes the TIME period or TYPE of question / study.
Putting your search into a question helps you think about its meaning. The next sections of the orientation will work with the following question:
What effect does palliative care have on quality of life for women with breast cancer?
P = women with breast cancer
I = palliative care
C = NA
O = better quality of life
Breaking up the question into its core concepts is the next step.
The variety of writing between authors leads to many different terms being used. The key to a comprehensive search strategy is identifying synonyms.
Now we want to find synonyms to represent each major concept.
Next, we'll add "Boolean" terms to join these concepts together to create a search strategy.