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Honors Nursing: Find Evidence with PICO

Creating a PICO Question

Practice Creating a PICO Question

PICO is a mnemonic used to describe the four elements of a good clinical foreground question:

P = Population/Patient/Problem - How would I describe the problem or a group of patients similar to mine?

I = Intervention - What main intervention, prognostic factor or exposure am I considering?

C = Comparison - Is there an alternative to compare with the intervention?

O = Outcome - What do I hope to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?

Scenario 1: You're a recent graduate with two years' experience in an acute care setting. You've taken a position as a home health care nurse and you have several adult patients with various medical conditions. However, you've recently been assigned to care for hospice patients. You don't have experience in this area, and you haven't experienced a loved one at the end of life who's received hospice care. You notice that some of the family members or caregivers of patients in hospice care are withdrawn. You're wondering what the family caregivers are going through, so that you might better understand the situation and provide quality care.

What type of PICO question would you create for this scenario? 


The following resources are a good place to start your literature search:


Steps to researching your PICO question

  1. Identify the main keywords in PICO question
    1. For adults over age 65 (P) does a daily 30 minute exercise regimen (I) reduce the future risk of heart attack (O) compared with no exercise regimen (C)?
  2. Enter 2-3 of these keywords into the database search box.  Do not copy and paste your entire PICO question into the search box.
  3. Before running your first search, use limiters to refine your results
    1. Publication date
    2. Scholarly journals
    3. Publication Type
    4. Language
  4. Identify which subjects the database is using to describe your topic. For example, some databases recognize abbreviations, but others don't. These subjects can vary database to database.
    1. Myocardial Infarction (instead of heart attack)
    2. Myocardial Infarction Prevention and Control (reduce future risk)
    3. Aerobic Exercises 
    4. Aged: 65+ years
  5. Rerun your search using the database subjects you just identified.  Use additional limiters, like age and geography, as needed. You may need to conduct multiple searches using a variety of search term combinations.
  6. If you have too few results, try taking out one or two of your search terms.  If you have too many results, try adding an additional search term.
  7. Keep doing this process until you find at least one article that fits your topic.  Then use the “Find similar articles” feature in the database to find additional articles on the same topic.


Instructional Videos

Check out the following short videos for further information on conducting your search:


Here are some of the best ways to get help.