Standardized systematic search strategies facilitate rigor in research. Current search tools focus on retrieval of quantitative research. In this article we address issues relating to using existing search strategy tools, most typically the PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) formulation for defining key elements of a review question, when searching for qualitative and mixed methods research studies. An alternative search strategy tool for qualitative/mixed methods research is outlined: SPIDER (Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research type). We used both the SPIDER and PICO search strategy tools with a qualitative research question. We have used the SPIDER tool to advance thinking beyond PICO in its suitable application to qualitative and mixed methods research. However, we have highlighted once more the need for improved indexing of qualitative articles in databases. To constitute a viable alternative to PICO, SPIDER needs to be refined and tested on a wider range of topics.