Skip to Main Content

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


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 - Population/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 (if relevant)
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?

P - Accidental falls; elderly; nursing home
I - Video monitoring
C - (Sitters; Rounds; Fall alarms)
O - Reduce/Prevent falls 
Clinical Research Question: Is video monitoring an effective tool for reducing accidental falls? Is video monitoring more effective than fall alarms in reducing accidental falls? 


P - Hypertension; African American males
I - Self-monitoring
C - Telemonitoring
O - Better management
Clinical Research Question: Does self-monitoring with telemonitoring lead to better management of hypertension? 


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?

PICO Practice Scenarios

PICO Worksheet

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.