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Physical Education: Home

A guide to research databases, websites, e-books, and other sources for physical education research.

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PICO example

You are working with a third grade class with a high rate of obesity and many students at risk for type 2 diabetes. You want to incorporate regular exercise into their daily schedule but you need to be able to justify starting an after-school physical activity program to the school administration.

P = population (elementary school children at risk for developing type 2 diabetes)

I = Intervention (incorporating regular exercise into the daily schedule of the children)

C=Comparison (could be diet changes or medication)


This is a HOW question - you are looking for a solution to a problem.


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What is PICO?

For any paper or thesis, a hypothesis or problem statement needs to be made. The best ones are those that provide the following information:

P = Population, Problem, Process

The population doesn't need to be human. Most often this is a problem or process that needs to be changed in some way.

I = Intervention, Inquiry, Investigation, Improvement

Possible solution

C = Comparison

Current practice, opposing viewpoints, or conditions under which P & I occur

O = Outcomes

Measuring what worked best

The Role of the 5 Ws

Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)

Researchers in most fields are looking for one of two things:

  • A cause for a problem (Why) or
  • a solution to a problem (How).

The Why or the How then becomes the I element of the PICO formula.

The P element of the PICO formula is typically the Who or the What

PICO Search Strategy

Using Physical Education Index, your search terms are:

P=(elementary students)



This yielded 9 articles.

Conducting the same search in Sport Discus yielded 1 article.

Using PubMed and the same search yielded 6 articles.

Modifying the search in PubMed with the following terms and filters got better results:

P=preventing diabetes


Age filter set to children (birth to 18 years)


Bee Gallegos
Specialties: Children's & Young Adult Literature, Tests & Assessments, Library Science, Citation Styles
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