A defined question helps to clarify what you are looking for. The PICO framework, below, is a tool that helps structure the search process by providing the building blocks to create a logical strategy. For each element we will perform both a subject heading and a keyword search.
Questions do not normally occur in a structured form; you will examine your research question to structure it into blocks. For example, you may start with the question "Should I recommend cloth or disposable diapers to parents worried about diaper rash for their babies?"
Note: In many instances the C or Comparison element is not searched. In our example we will create searches for the P, the I, and the O elements
To begin, identify the individual concepts in the topic. In healthcare, the Population Intervention Comparison Outcome (PICO) framework is frequently used. In other subject areas frameworks include Setting Population Issue Contrast Evaluation (SPICE), Sample Phenomenon of interest, Design, Evaluation, Research type (SPIDER) or simply concepts A, B and C.
For the question "Should I recommend cloth or disposable diapers to parents worried about diaper rash for their babies?", consider whether it can be expressed as "in a [Population], does [Intervention] vs. [Comparison] produce [Outcome]?" In this case, our research question becomes "In infants, does using disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers affect the likelihood of diaper rash?"
PICO, PCC, SPICE, and SPIDER are just some possible strategies for breaking a research topic into distinct concepts. Using a structured search, concepts can be searched in any order, like blocks being moved around, without changing the results.
Analyze the following topic according to Population Intervention Comparison Outcome (PICO) elements to separate the individual concepts or ideas:
What is your research question?