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Occupational Therapy at UTM

OT/OS Program at UTM

Search Frameworks

Before you start your literature search, you need to turn your research question into a searchable question.

Two commonly used frameworks to do this are PICO and Concept Boxes.

Concept Boxes

Concept boxes are a way to break your research question into individual search concepts. 

 1. Write out the question you would like to answer in your literature search.

 2. Underline the main terms/concepts in the statements you wrote for steps 1 and 2.

 3. Create a concept box by listing each unique topic in a separate row and related terms/synonyms in the adjacent column.


The PICO Framework can be used to structure and refine your research question as well as your search strategy. An additional component, M = methods, can be used as a filter if you would like to focus on studies that use a particular study methodology. You can also add a T = time to incorporate at timeline into your search.

This table is modified from Sarah Young's A research guide for the Cornell Dietetic Internship Program: Evidence-based Medicine.

Quick Boolean Refresher



The OR operator lets you retrieve records that contain any of your search terms. For example, the search heart attack or myocardial infarction retrieves records that contain heart attack, myocardial infarction or both terms. Results are all inclusive.

Use the OR operator to combine results sets into a single set inclusive of all records from the results sets indicated. For example, the search 1 or 2 or 3 combines results from the first, second, and third sets into a single set.


The AND operator lets you retrieve only those records that include all of your search terms. For example, the search blood pressure and stroke retrieves only those records that contain both terms blood pressure and stroke together in the same record. Results exclude records that do not contain both terms.

Use the AND operator to combine two or more results sets into a single set that contains only those records that the original sets had in common. For example, the search 1 and 2 and 3 creates a set of only those records that sets one, two, and three have in common.

Evidence-Based Practice


Evidence-Based Medicine is the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values. (Sackett DL, Straus SE, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence-based medicine: how to practice and teach EBM. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.)