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HLTH 200-1: Peer Health Training

Spring 2022


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?  What is the health problem you're investigating?

I = intervention / exposure

What intervention (drug, treatment, technology, dose) 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, depending on your question, you may use PICOT, which may stand for Type of Study or the Timeframe.

The Question

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.

Major Concepts
palliative care
breast cancer
quality of life


The key to a comprehensive search strategy is identifying synonyms. Think about terms that may have different spellings (behavior OR behaviour) or often use acronyms (AIDS OR aquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Find synonyms to represent each major concept.

Major Concepts Synonyms
palliative care palliative care, hospice, terminal care, end of life care
breast cancer breast cancer, breast neoplasm, breast carcinoma
quality of life quality of life, QOL, life quality, well being

Next, we'll add "Boolean" terms to join these concepts together to create a search strategy.