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Research Question in PICO Format

  1. Take your topic and articulate it as an answerable research question. 
    1. topic example: teenager reading identity
    2. Answerable research question: What are the effects of pleasure reading in developing reader identity in teenagers?
  2. If appropriate, use the PICO format. Not all research questions work in PICO format, and not all parts of the PICO need to be filled.
    1. P (population/problem/patient)
    2. I (intervention/exposure)
    3. C (comparison/comparator)
    4. O (outcome)
  3. Fill out your PICO with synonyms
    1. P (population/problem/patient): youth OR teen* OR adolescen*
    2. I (intervention/exposure): pleasure reading OR recreational reading OR read* adj2 fun* OR everyday reading
    3. C (comparison/comparator): N/A
    4. O (outcome): reader identity OR lifelong reader OR reading habit

Create an OVID APA PsycInfo Account

  • Click on My Account
  • Create an Account
  • Searches and Alerts will be store in My Workplace


Strategies for Consideration

Strategies to consider:

  • Do one element of your search at a time
  • If you chose one term per line it will be easier to edit, but this is personal preference
  • When you see a long list of suggested Subject Headings, consider writing them down, and only select multiple choices if they are synonymous
  • Worried you're missing a chunk of your search? Select Expand on the right hand side of the search pane
  • The database times out after 15 minutes of window inactivity (remember to save!)
  • Click off all the lines you want to OR and create a line of all your synonyms
  • AND all lines that contain the total ORs for your final result list
  • Filters are applied to the last line of the search strategy, so make sure your last line is the final results line you want the filters applied to
  • Use $ or * as truncation wildcards to obtain suffix variants
  • Use " " for multiword phrases. Quotation marks don't work well in conjunction with truncation
  • Include both US and UK spelling variances (pediatric vs paediatric)
  • Use an adjacency function to find two words occurring in any order within a certain amount of words away from the other (see search strategy screenshot)

Search for Subject Headings and Textwords

  • Indexed journal articles have subject headings applied.
    • This acts as a "controlled vocabulary", so that if a researcher searches for a certain Subject Heading, they should retrieve all indexed papers that have that word applied
  • Textword searches allows researchers to obtain journals articles that are either too new or too old to have Subject Headings applied
    • Also allows researchers to search for phrases, new terminology, outdated terminology, colloquial phrasing, acronyms etc. by using a field code
    • .tw is a common choice as a field code. It searches the word or phrase in the title and abstract of a document
    • .mp is like a control/command-f function, to find the occurence of the word or phrase in the document or metadata field

Scope Note, Explode and Focus

  • Start by putting in a word and see if it matched to a Subject Heading
  • Click on Scope Note for definition and date of entry
  • Some Subject Headings are umbrella terms that have narrower terms
    • When you click Explode, the database with include all those narrower term
  • Focussing a term will retrieve papers where the main subject of a paper is that particular Subject Heading

Sample Search Strategy


Emailed Search Strategy (Great for Appendices!) - Check your spam if it doesn't come through

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