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Public Health

Writing Research Questions

One method to develop a research question is to use the PICO model.  In PICO, the letter "P" represents the population, patient or problem.  The letter "I" represents the intervention. In Public Health, sometimes, the intervention can be thought of as an exposure. The letter "C" represents the comparison group or variable.  It is not always specified in a PICO question.  The letter "O" represents the outcome.

Example

In college students, does journaling reduce anxiety?

P (Population): college students

I (Intervention): journaling

C (Comparison): not specified

O (Outcome): reduced anxiety

Developing a Search Strategy

Once you have determined your research question, identify the main concepts and brainstorm keywords.  Three terms are frequently used to combine these terms: AND, OR, and NOT.

Booleans
Connector Example Results
AND college students AND journaling AND anxiety Results will contain each of the terms.
OR anxiety OR stress Results will contain either term.
NOT  stress NOT oxidative Results will eliminate a term.