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Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing

Tips for Searching for the Evidence

While you will need to eventually address as many PICO(T) (Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome (Time) components as possible, trying to search for all of them at the same time is seldom successful.  This method generally results in getting zero results--despite the fact that evidence that answers the question does likely exist.  To avoid the dreaded "0 Results,"

1. Search only one main concept at a time.

  • Brainstorm as many possible terms or synonyms for each of your components before beginning searching. 
  • Once you have your lists, begin searching for CINAHL Subject Headings or MeSH that match your terms.  This will save you time in the end because when you find something like "Diabetes" as a Subject Heading, you're avoiding finding studies where diabetes is randomly mentioned as a tangential point rather than being a main topic of the article.  You won't always find Headings for everything, and that's ok
  • Search each PICO concept one at a time so that your searches will be saved in the search history where you can combine them.  Also, by doing this, if you find that one of your terms/Headings isn't working or you simply want to try another one, you can eliminate and add concepts without completely reconstructing your search repeatedly.  For more in this, see the videos from the Nursing Library Channel below.

2. Combine two main concepts.

3. Begin to apply your limiters.  Start by only limiting by publication date and preferred language.   Too many limiters can also result in the dreaded "0 Results."

Introduction to PICO Searching Video

How to Conduct PICO searches in CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PubMED

Select the Database

Recommended Databases for Any Clinical Question-Try these First

Databases for Questions with a Psychiatric Component

Databases for Questions with an Alternative/Complementary Therapy Component

Is there a Systematic Review that Answers My Question?