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Nursing Science and Research: PICOT Search Statements

PICOT Elements


Research Question: Is the use of soap and water or alcohol-based rubs more effective in preventing hospital infections?


Patient Intervention Comparison Outcome Time

Hospital Patients


Soap and Water

Hand Washing

Alcohol rubs Infection Prevention Hospital duration
Subject Headings

Hand Disinfection

Hand Hygiene

Hand Sanitizers

Cross Infection

Nosocomial Infection

Length of Stay


All searches are a balance between choosing enough terms to be specific, but still give you helpful results

Combine terms with:

OR - for synonyms; words in the same column

AND - for different elements; words in different columns

(---) - to group words together


General Rules:

  • Always include terms for your Outcome, since you have to know what is being measured!
  • Use terms for BOTH your Intervention and Comparison for a very specific result (less articles), use only one for a broader result (more articles)
  • Don’t repeat terms unless you absolutely must!  (see how I use the words patient and hand below)

Specific/Narrow Search Statement:

(In-patient OR Hospital) AND (Hand washing OR Disinfection) AND (Alcohol OR Sanitizer) AND Infection

Broader Search Statement:

hospital AND Hand Washing AND Infection AND Length of Stay

In-Patient AND Alcohol rub AND Infection

PICO(T) Questions Template

Subject Guide