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Nursing 707: Evidence-Based Practice Methods: PICO Questions

Using PICO to Formulate Clinical Questions

PICO (alternately known as PICOT) is a mnemonic used to describe the four elements of a good clinical question. It stands for:


Many people find that it helps them clarify their question, which in turn makes it easier to find an answer. 

Use PICO to generate terms - these you'll use in your literature search for the current best evidence.   Once you have your PICO terms, you can then use them to re-write your question.  (Note, you can do this in reverse order if that works for you.)

More Information on Formulating PICO Questions

Forming Focused Questions with PICO A tutorial created by University of North Carolina Chapel Hill  Health Sciences Library for learning how to form questions using the PICO framework. Includes case studies and question examples.

PICOT Question Templates

For an intervention/therapy:

In _______(P), what is the effect of _______(I) on ______(O) compared with _______(C) within ________ (T)?

For etiology:

Are ____ (P) who have _______ (I) at ___ (Increased/decreased) risk for/of_______ (O) compared with ______ (P) with/without ______ (C) over _____ (T)?

Diagnosis or diagnostic test:

Are (is) _________ (I) more accurate in diagnosing ________ (P) compared with ______ (C) for _______ (O)?


For ________ (P) does the use of ______ (I) reduce the future risk of ________ (O) compared with _________ (C)?


Does __________ (I) influence ________ (O) in patients who have _______ (P) over ______ (T)?


How do ________ (P) diagnosed with _______ (I) perceive ______ (O) during _____ (T)?

Melnyk B., & Fineout-Overholt E. (2010). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.