Background: The Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, teaches evidence-based medicine to fourth year medical students. They learn about study designs and how to search for the best evidence using electronic databases.
Objectives: To describe a strategy for teaching basic concepts of electronic databases and the development of search strategies based on the PICO (participants, intervention, comparator, outcomes) framework in practical classes.
Methods: Students were divided into groups. Each group attended four weekly classes on evidence-based medicine. In each class about search strategies, students were asked to develop a search strategy in accordance with a previous case study and with specific types of study design, which were approached in earlier classes. This is how the class on search strategy is organized.
1) Theoretical concepts (15 minutes): how to structure a question in the PICO framework.
2) Practice (45 minutes): accessing a different database (MEDLINE via PubMed, LILACS via BVS, Cochrane Library): how does it work, how to identify its official descriptors and how to use simple and advanced search.
3) Practice (15 minutes): putting descriptors into PICO structure;
4) Practice (30 minutes): 'Go and search for it!'.
5) Practice (5 minutes): online learning game.
6) Student feedback: did you learn something? Do you recommend it? How do you feel? How much fun was it?
Results: We used this learning strategy during 2017. We divided a total of 120 students into eight groups (15 students/group), we delivered 32 classes on search strategies with almost 100% positive feedback. During the practice learning, the students were free to discuss and help each other. We relied on one teacher and one tutor to guide each class and help the students.
Conclusions: Students seemed to enjoy this practical learning strategy, and we also identified that they achieved good grades. The practical classes on how to develop search strategies are an enjoyable initiative.