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Physician Assistant

Develop Your Topic

Before you develop your research topic or question, you'll need to do some background research first.

Some good places to find background information:

  • Your textbook or class readings
  • Encyclopedias and reference books
  • Credible websites
  • Library databases

Try the library databases below to explore your topic. When you're ready, move on to refining your topic.

Find Background Information:



     This is based off of the characteristics of a population, with examples of variables being age, race, and gender, with a set of specific condition or set of circumstances. 

I-Intervention or Interest

      This variable would be a treatment, diagnostic test, or therapy.

C-Comparison Group

     This is the comparison treatment to the intervention selected. The comparison may be with another medication, another form of treatment such as exercise, or no treatment at all otherwise known as a control group.


     What would be the desired result, and what result is not desired? What is your goal with this research? Outcomes should be measurable.


P: Aged (65+)

I: Aerobic Dance

C: N/A

O: Cognition/Executive Function, Quality of Life


  • Start with the population, and the intervention in your search first.
  • A comparison is not always included in a PICO Analysis.
  • To see examples of PICO in action, check out Cochrane Reviews: 

Now that you've done some background research, and thought of your PICO question, you might need to troubleshoot your topic if you do not find any results.

The easiest way to do this is to change the variables in your PICO question.


P: Aged (65+)

I: Aerobic Dance

C: N/A

O: Cognition/Executive Function

We can change any of these outcomes to help in finding results.

Ex. Aerobic Dance, placed in Intervention, could be changed to other activities that focus on memory. An alternative being puzzle games or applications.