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Systematic Reviews through Joanna Briggs Institute: PICO(T)

A Library Guide on paths, hints and tricks to creating a Systematic Review

Step 1 in the Systematic Review Process

Step 1 in the process is simple:

1. Find a topic that interests you

2. Build a PICO (see boxes below) that will support that topic

3. Then deconstruct that PICO so that you can establish keywords that relate to your topic, and then utilize a concept map (see example below) to ensure you have all concepts and synonyms available to search

What Is PICO(T)?

What is PICO(T)?


Population – This is a specific reference to a population and their characteristics.  Inclusion or exclusion should be based on a clear, scientific justification rather than based on biased reasoning.


Intervention – The intervention should be described in detail, if possible.  Think about the comparator while defining the intervention.


Comparison – Is the alternative form of treatment or care that will be compared to the intervention. 


Outcome – Is the desired effect or outcome from using the intervention or the comparison.


Time  The time it takes to demonstrate an outcome (Only use if necessary)


For more information on PICO look at this site Cochrane Tutorial on PICO.

PICO Example

1.  Write a Clinical Scenario. 

You have just seen Lydia, who recently delivered a healthy baby.  She plans to breastfeed, but also wants to start oral contraception.  You generally prefer to prescribe combination oral contraceptives (estrogen + progesterone) but you have been told that these might more negatively affect her breast milk production than progesterone only pills.


2.  Deconstruct the Scenario into PICO format:


Population                Intervention               Comparator               Outcome


Breastfeeding         Combined                Progesterone        Maternal satisfaction

Mom desiring          Contraceptives       Only                       with infant satiety or   

Contraception         (Progesterone        Contraception       milk flow 

                                     and Estrogen) 




3.  A good place to start your search is the databases available through library website:

 What are some databases you can look in, what are some of the search terms you can use, and what are some of the limits that can be used to search?  (List at least 4)


Example of limits:  Date limits, Full Text Only, Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals



Databases                             Search Terms                       Limits             

ProQuest                            Breastfeeding                  NOT Cancer       

Nursing Collection II         Oral Contraceptive*         Peer Reviewed

Medline                               Estrogen                           (SU) Subject: breastfeeding

Academic Search              Progesterone                   Date Range: Last 5 years






Medical Research Librarian

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Alysha Sapp
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