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The Research Process


If you are a Health Sciences student, the PICO framework can help you design your research question. It also helps develop your search strategy by identifying key words and concepts that your books and articles will need to contain (Duke University Medical Centre Library & Archives, 2018).


P = Patient / Population / Problem

Who is the patient?  What are the significant characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity)? Or, what is the problem?

I =    Intervention

What intervention, treatment, procedure or exposure are you considering? 

C =   Comparison

How does your intervention compare with another, or with no treatment at all?

O =   Outcome

What do you hope to achieve, measure, improve, or affect?



Clinical Scenario: A 70 year old male patient collapses and suffers a cardiac arrest at his residence. His wife witnesses the event and calls 911. The patient's wife is instructed by the 999 dispatcher to begin CPR. The patient's wife continues CPR until the EMTs arrive. Will this patient benefit from a mechanical compression device compared to standard CPR and survive his cardiac arrest? (Dalhousie University Division of EMS, n.d.)

PICO Question: (P) In an elderly adult cardiac arrest patient, (I) does the use of mechanical compression device (C) compared to standard CPR (O) lead to the patient's survival?

Keywords Working from this question, your next step is to think of key words and phrases. You will also need to consider synonyms

The following resources may be useful when selecting keywords to search.


Paramedic Glossary

EMS Reference

MeSH Thesaurus

Elderly Older adult
Cardiac Arrest Heart attack. Cardiopulmonary arrest
Mechanical compression device AutoPulse, Lucas
CPR Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation

Your Search Strategy might look like this:

(elderly OR "older adult") AND ("cardiac Arrest" OR "heart attack") AND ("mechanical compression device" OR AutoPulse) AND (CPR OR Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation)


Dalhousie University Division of EMS. (n.d.). Paramedic CAT (Critically Appraised Topic) Worksheet. Retrieved from

Duke University Medical Centre Library and Archives. (2018). Evidence based practice. Retrieved 26 June, 2018 from