Acquiring Evidence--Tips for Effective Literature Searching

Sara Pimental, MLIS, AHIP

Spring 2005 - Volume 9 Number 2

Effective, evidence-based literature searching is easier if it's kept simple. The basic steps are: A Clinical Question Arises Out of Care of the Patient

A 60-year-old, postmenopausal woman presents with a diagnosis of arthritis. Can glucosamine be recommended in place of more conventional therapy?

Formulate the Question

Well-built clinical questions are constructed using PICO format. The key is to start with the most basic question. More facets can always be added if necessary. In this example:

P (Patient/Disease)--Arthritis Are the age, sex and menopausal status of the patient of primary importance? Probably not, so leave it out for now.
I (Intervention)--Glucosamine
C (Comparison)--Conventional Therapy Many clinical questions such as this one don't have a searchable comparison. It is okay to ignore it.
O (Outcome)--Effectiveness of therapy, side effects, etc

If one particular outcome was of interest, it could be built in the search. In this case, outcome definition is broad enough to leave it out.


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