One way of focusing your question is by using the PICO format (you may also see PICO(T) or PICOTT). PICO includes several factors that, when searched together, comprise a well-built clinical question. It includes:
You can clarify your intended results at the outset with additional, optional factors:
Take the following sample question:
In a 20 year old male athlete, is wearing a face mask more effective than warm-up exercise to reduce the effects of exercise-induced asthma?
This example covers all elements of PICO, and provides us four distinct elements to convert into search terms:
In the next section, "Identifying the Best Evidence," you'll learn more about different levels of evidence and the different types of clinical questions.