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Database Searching: Choosing a Topic

Choosing a Topic

Depending on the type of research you are interested in, whether it's clinical, evidence-based, or lab/bench research, each type requires a slightly different approach to searching databases.

It begins with how to choose a topic. Evidence-based (PICO) topics should be asked in a way that are focused clinical questions.

Evidence Based PICO (T) Question

Asking a focused clinical question using the pneumonic PICO (T) as it is a helpful approach to summarizing the literature that explores the effect of a specific therapy.

P=Patient, Population or Problem


C=Comparative Intervention


T-Time Frame

Scenario: I am a nurse working in the pediatrics day hospital and I have been asked to search for the best evidence on interventions like distractions for easing children's fears of needles during immunization.  

PICO Question: In the pediatric population, do distraction techniques during immunization result in less pain and anxiety?


Research Question

A research question should be clear and focused, where you can then draw upon multiple sources to present your argument.

Scenario: I am working with a colleague on submitting an NIH grant to explore the cancer-obesity link and need assistance with a literature search on the following topic: while obese people are at a higher risk for developing cancer, have worse prognoses and may be resistant to chemotherapy, we would like to know why. 

Research Question: How does obesity promote tumor development?