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Evidence-Based Research (EBR): ASK: Use PICO to Create Research Question

Forming a Research Question Using PICO(T)

PICO is a mnemonic used to describe the elements of a clinical question. Once a well-structured question is formulated, you will be in a better position to search the literature. 


P - Patient/Problem 

Age? Sex? Race? Conditions? Primary Complaint?

I - Intervention

What will you do for this patient? A diagnostic test? A treatment? A therapy? Medication?

C - Comparison/Control

Is there a control or alternative management strategy you would like to compare to the intervention or indicator?

O - Outcomes

What results do you want to see? Preventing conditions? Relieving symptoms? Decreasing discomfort?


T - Time/Type of Study (if applicable)

What time periods should be considered?  What study types are most likely to have the information you seek?

PICO Worksheet

Examples of a PICO Created Research Question

P - Smokers

I - Nicotine gum

C - counseling

O - Quit smoking

Clinical Research Question: Is nicotine gum more effective than counseling in helping smokers quit smoking?



I - Hand sanitizers

C - Handwashing

O- Reduce incidence

Clinical Research Question: Are hand sanitizers as effective as hand washing in reducing the incidence of MRSA? 


P - Children with the flu

I - Tamiflu

C - Over-the-counter medications

O - Reduce hospitalizations

T  -  Administered within the first 48 hours of symptoms

Clinical Research Question: Is Tamiflu more effective than over-the-counter medications in reducing childhood hospitalizations due to the flu if administered in the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms?

Medical Subject Headings

Use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to identify the best keywords to use in your search statement:

For more information about MeSH, view this tutorial from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.