“We need to talk about PICO”: Approaching the move from question formulation to search strategy

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Erica Hateley


This paper begins with PICO and its place in health librarianship, before moving to discuss a model of teaching knowledge that may offer some new ways of thinking about PICO (or, perhaps, leaving PICO behind). My two main points of contention with the ubiquity of PICO in health librarianship are: 

  1. That it is only one among many approaches to question formulation; and

  2. That question formulation strategies are treated ‘as’ search formulation strategies.

I am particularly interested in PICO’s ubiquity as a teaching tool for advanced information-seeking within health libraries, and the possible division between what health librarians are teaching and what they do when moving from question formulation to designing search strategies.  

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