Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Biology - Research Basics

This guide is an outline of recommended resources and a research companion helping you to identify and successfully utilize biological research.

Develop a Search Strategy


Your background research will enable you to formulate a research question or a research statement. When you have a research statement you should break that down into at least two topics and come up with alternative search terminology in order to cast a wide net in databases. Not every article that is about animal behavior is necessarily going to be tagged with that precise terminology. Instead, it might be much more specific like reproductive strategies or foraging behavior. Hopefully, your background research can help in identifying some of these terms. The library also has a web tool to assist you in formulating a research strategy. 

PICO Search Strategy

A good search strategy is to break down your research question into the following components. This search strategy works particularly well and was developed in the health sciences - but it can be a useful framework for breaking down questions in a variety of fields. 

P - Problem/Patient/Population

I - Intervention

C - Comparison

O - Outcome

Let's look at an example. My research question is: Does exercise reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome?

P - The problem here is Restless Leg Syndrome. The question is not specific enough to draw a population/patient. It's fairly obvious from the question that we are thinking about a human population, but we won't include that component in our preliminary search. 

I - The intervention is Exercise. Does exercise make a difference? 

C - In this case, the comparison is with those who do not exercise. Let's leave this component out though, as it can be difficult to specify a deficit comparison without mucking up the search. 

O - The obvious outcome here is reduced symptoms. Let's keep this in mind but not include it in the preliminary search. 

The good news is a decent PICO search strategy starts with the terminology outlined in P and I, giving us:

Restless Leg Syndrome AND Exercise

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.