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Engineering (Basic)

A introductory guide to engineering and technology resources. Directed primarily at engineering undergraduates in ASU101 and lower-level engineering courses.

What is PICO?

P = Population, Problem, Process

The population doesn't need to be human. In engineering, it is most often a problem or process.

I = Intervention, Inquiry, Investigation, Improvement

Possible solution

C = Comparison

Current practice or opposing viewpoints

O = Outcomes

Measuring what worked best

Asking the Searchable Question

PICO Question | Engineering

Background | Five Ws


Who or What          equals              Population, Problem or Process

How or Why            equals              Intervention, Investigation or Improvement

When                      equals              Special conditions

Example:   How can PV cells be made more efficient, especially in low sun conditions?

Ask broad topical question and read to:

  • build knowledge base.
  • identify trending facts, issues, cutting edge research
  • lay foundation for asking focused research question

Foreground | PICO

Example:    In PV cells (P) how does using gallium (I) compared to silicon (C) improve electrical production efficiency (O)?

Formulate research question using PICO to:

  • identify research elements related to topic
  • select keywords representing those elements
  • retrieve relevant research articles when PICO keywords appear in TI,AB

Searching the Answerable Question

Search in Compendex & Inspec:


SS1: (PV or photovoltaic) AND (gallium OR silicon) AND efficien*

SS2: ((((PV or photovoltaic) WN TI) AND ((gallium OR silicon) WN TI)) AND ((efficien*) WN TI)) 


Search in Academic Search Premier:

SS1: (PV or photovoltaic) AND (gallium OR silicon) AND efficien*

SS2: TI (PV or photovoltaic) AND TI (gallium OR silicon) AND TI efficien*

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