Skip to main content
LibApps staff login

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*

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.