Skip to Main Content

Yale University Library Today's Hours:   Off-campus access  Search

Physician Assistant Online Program: Writing the research question and searching the literature

This guide contains resources for students in Yale's Online PA Program, such as: key resources for success in the classroom and the clinic, information on accessing materials off campus, information on drugs, diagnoses, PE, and recommended mobile apps

About this page

This section will assist you in defining your PICO and clinical question, as well as prepare for searching the literature by creating a concept table. Common capstone literature resources are also listed.

For a recording covering this content, as well as reviewing levels of evidence, types of studies and types of questions, and more, proceed to this video

Writing the research question using PICO

The video above explains how to create an answerable, specific research question using the PICO framework. Watch the video and identify your capstone P, I, C, and O concepts.


Developing a search strategy with a concept table

This video will walk you through converting your PICO into a robust search strategy complete with synonyms, related terms, and relevant acronyms. This is a crucial step prior to searching the literature in order to ensure that you aren't missing relevant papers because the author used a different term than you did for one of your key concepts.


Comprehensive literature searching

Comprehensive or systematic literature searching (in contrast to the scoping searches you did to determine your capstone topic):

  • aspires to find all of the evidence on a topic
  • gathers relevant-sounding papers and screens them for resemblance to the PICO, adherence to inclusion/exclusion criteria, and quality of the study and evidence
  • focuses on creating reproducible searches to mitigate bias 

Characteristics of systematic searches include:

  • extensive concept table
  • adapted search strategies for each database
  • thorough record keeping for search strategies, dates of searches, and number of results
  • preset inclusion and exclusion criteria to guide screening of search results
  • collecting all papers retrieved in searches

Common literature sources for PAO capstone projects