Mastering the PEO Framework: A Guide for Nursing Students

Structure your nursing research with the clarity of the PEO framework, creating research questions that lead to meaningful insights and improved patient care.

Navigating nursing research often requires a structured approach, and the PEO (Population, Exposure, Outcome) framework is pivotal in providing this structure. This method is about defining the specific group, situation, and desired results in a study.

Applying the PEO Framework: A Sample from Learning Disability Nursing

Let’s apply the framework to a hypothetical study. Suppose you're investigating how communication in healthcare impacts individuals with learning disabilities. Here's how the framework shapes your research:

  • Population: People with learning disabilities.
  • Exposure: The communication methods used in healthcare settings.
  • Outcome: The level of health inequality experienced.

This leads to a focused research question: "Which communication methods are most effective in minimising health inequality for individuals with learning disabilities?"

Developing Your Research With The PEO Framework For Learning Disability Learning

Detailed and precise study plan.



Communication is central in addressing health inequalities for people with learning disabilities

PEO framework and Research Question

Research question: How effective is communication in addressing health inequalities among people with learning disabilities?

Key search terms developed using the PICO framework are:-

P= people with learning disabilities

I= effective communication

C= none

O= health inequalities

Table 1:

Inclusion and exclusion criteria





People with learning disabilities

Other people mental health challenges or general health conditions


Effective communication






Health inequalities

Other inequalities

Research design

Primary: qualitative and quantitative

Systematic reviews, literature reviews, meta-analysis, grey literature

Date of publication


2013 and earlier

Language of publication

English language

Other languages

Geographical location

United Kingdom 

The rest of the world


Table 2: Literature Search Strategy


Search Terms

Results and inclusion criteria

Included articles


accessible information or easy read AND people with learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities AND uk or england or britain or great britain or united kingdom


 44 results


2014-2023 (22)

Academic journals (21)

21 filtered

3 included


accessible information or easy read AND people with learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities AND uk or england or britain or great britain or united kingdom

36 results

2014-2023 (27)

Academic journals (27)

27 filtered

5 included




8 included


 Included from CINAHL

  1. Homeyard, C. E., & Patelarou, E. (2018). To what extent are midwives adapting antenatal information for pregnant women with intellectual disabilities? A survey of NHS trusts in England. Public Health158, 25-30.
  2. Fish, R., Hatton, C., & Chauhan, U. (2017). “Tell me what they do to my body”: A survey to find out what information people with learning disabilities want with their medications. British journal of learning disabilities45(3), 217-225.
  3. Doherty, A. J., Jones, S. P., Chauhan, U., & Gibson, J. M. E. (2020). Eating well, living well and weight management: A co-produced semi-qualitative study of barriers and facilitators experienced by adults with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities24(2), 158-176.


Included from Medline  


  1. Buell, S., Langdon, P. E., Pounds, G., & Bunning, K. (2020). An open randomized controlled trial of the effects of linguistic simplification and mediation on the comprehension of “easy read” text by people with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities33(2), 219-231.
  2. Kotwal, H., Fleming, J., Barlow‐Stewart, K., Boyle, J., Silberbauer, L., Leffler, M., ... & Palmer, E. E. (2020). Pre‐genetics clinic resource evaluation for adults with intellectual disability: The pre‐genetics clinic aid. Journal of Genetic Counseling29(4), 668-677.
  3. Sawhney, I., Zia, A., Gates, B., Sharma, A., & Adeniji, A. (2023). Clinical letters to patients with intellectual disabilities after psychiatric review: A quality improvement project. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities27(1), 278-286.
  4. Darvell, C., & Bradshaw, J. (2023). Exploring the social care‐related quality of life outcomes of adults with intellectual disabilities through the use of Talking Mats®. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities36(1), 39-49.
  5. Chinn, D. (2020). An empirical examination of the use of Easy Read health information in health consultations involving patients with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities33(2), 232-247.

For additional support in creating a detailed and accurate PEO framework for your research, visit Grammarholic's Research Services.

Delving Deeper into PEO: Conducting Comprehensive Searches

Having a PEO framework is one thing, but putting it into action requires a strategic approach to searching for literature. It's about more than finding articles; it's about finding the right articles. This means setting clear inclusion and exclusion criteria that align with your PEO elements and applying these to database searches within fields relevant to learning disability nursing. You're not just looking for information; you're looking for evidence that will underpin your research and potentially influence practice within the NHS.

Analysing and Synthesising Your Findings

Once you've gathered your research, it’s time for analysis. This is where you'll bring together all the evidence, weighing up the effectiveness of different communication strategies and how they impact health inequality. It’s about looking for patterns, contradictions, and gaps in the research, always linking back to the Population, Exposure, and Outcome you defined.

Bringing It All Together

The endgame of your PEO-driven research is to reach conclusions that can inform practice, influence policy, or pave the way for further study. It’s about adding a piece to the puzzle of how we understand and improve healthcare for people with learning disabilities. Your research, grounded in the PEO framework, could be a beacon for others in the field.

The PEO framework isn't just an academic exercise; it's a lens through which to view your research, ensuring it has direction, clarity, and impact. In Learning Disability Nursing, where communication and understanding are so vital, the PEO framework helps ensure that your work really speaks to those who need it most.

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