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University of Portland Clark Library

ED 537: Research in Schools: Your Research Topic

Structured Thinking About Your Topic

Researchers in nursing use the PICO(T) [pee-ko] format to identify the elements that compose their research question; this helps to break the topic down into manageable parts to make searching easier. Education researchers might find that this format translates well to their topic.

Nursing Education equivalent
P = Patient Population Study Population (student / teacher, grade, subject, etc.)
I = Intervention or area of Interest Curriculum, teaching technique, support method, etc.
C = Comparison or Control group (can be nothing) This one might not translate
O = Outcome Desired effect
(T) = Time frame (e.g. how long does it take for the intervention to reach an outcome?) Not always included Might not be included

Turning a Topic Idea into an Effective Search

  • Identify the key elements of your topic
  • Search for 1 element (keyword) at a time
  • Watch for the preferred terminology for each element of your topic by watching the database subject headings (or look for the Subject list on the left sidebar)

List of Subject terms in ERIC

  • Keep a list of the best search terms (different databases may use different terms)
  • Not finding enough? Broaden your topic (e.g. instead of Grade 3, try elementary education)

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