Using PubMed in Evidence-Based Practice

Develop a Clinical Question

Using PICO to Identify Search Terms

Letters of P.I.C.O

PICO can also help you to identify keywords to use in a PubMed search. You don’t want to use the entire clinical question as your search terms. Instead, you want to pull out the most important and defining words to optimize your search results.


Looking at our clinical question, we can pull out those keywords from our PICO application:

“Are patient education programs effective in increasing patient exercise in the population of patients age 65 and older with high blood pressure?”

The keywords for this question are: “patient education,” “exercise,” and “high blood pressure.”

Note that we aren’t including the patients’ age in the initial search. This variable can be considered on an individual article basis, or be used in a PubMed filter. We will explore filtering later in this tutorial.

Try-It Exercise

From the following clinical question:

"Will providing materials on the negative health effects of vaping, help teenagers stop or reduce their smoking?"

Which search terms would you use for PubMed? Select all that apply.