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A Guide for MSN / DNP

PICO Framework

Patient / Population

Intervention

Comparison (often "no intervention" or "usual care")

Outcome 

Additional variables (PICOT, PICOS, PICOTS, PICOTTS):

  • Timeframe
  • Type of study
  • Setting

Other frameworks for clinical questions

Systematic Research Strategy

A thorough review of the literature includes:
  • Searching multiple databases
  • Using synonyms, related terms, and controlled vocabulary (e.g. MeSH terms/headings) in addition to your topic keywords
  • Searching concepts separately to reveal limiting variables
  • Combining concepts strategically to focus results without over-narrowing
  • Using database limiters/filters thoughtfully
  • Applying inclusion/exclusion criteria as you skim result lists 
  • Scheduling a research appointment to brainstorm search options with your Personal Librarian

Essential Databases

Start your search for articles in these Core Nursing Research Databases.
The first 2 databases (CINAHL and MEDLINE) can be searched simultaneously, by
clicking on the "Choose Databases" link at the top of the CINAHL database).

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More Databases:

Database Search Tips

Productive and effective searching:

  • Start with one or two keywords 
    • Add terms with AND to narrow results (hypertension AND exercise)
    • If needed, combine synonyms with OR to include related terms (cardiac or heart)
  • Review results to brainstorm additional or alternate keyword options
  • Try multiple searches with different keywords and explore more than one database
  • Apply limiters thoughtfully
    • After seeing how productive your keywords are, limit by date range and English language
    • Other limiters to try:
      • Peer Reviewed (articles must be approved by other scholars before publication)
      • Other database-specific limit options (research article, randomized controlled trial, etc.)
      • Use limiters with caution - metadata imperfections may lead to over-limiting
Can't access the article or book you need? Use our Inter-library loan (ILL) service!