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PICO- What's in a queston?

The PICOT question format is a consistent "formula" for developing answerable, researchable questions.

Note: Not every question will have an intervention (as in a meaning question) or time (when it is implied in another part of the question) component.

PICO(T) Templates

Template for Asking PICOT Questions

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.

Develop your Research Question

The PICO(T) Question

A clinical question that is composed using the PICO or PICOT format will help you to focus your search and help you to develop your research skills which are essential in finding the best available evidence.

The most common PICO(T) elements are:

P - Population

  • How you would describe a group of people with a similar problem or complaint.

I - Intervention

  • How you plan to treat, medicate, diagnose and/or observe the patient's care.

C - Comparison (if applicable)

  • The main intervention alternative you are considering (i.e. placebo, alternative therapy, different drug, surgery).

O - Outcome

  • The result from proposed treatment that is measurable, including improvement of symptoms,no symptoms, or complications.

(T) - Time (if applicable)

  • The time frame of treatment and/or measurable outcome.


In order be successful in using Evidence Based Practice (EBP) you will need to learn how to develop well-composed clinical questions.  By formatting your research question in a PICO(T) format you can gather evidence relevant to your patient's problem.  Well-composed PICO(T) questions generally contain up to four components each represented in the acronym "PICO(T)" P=Patient or Population and Problem; I=Intervention or Indicator; C=Comparison or Control (not part of all questions); O=Outcome; T=Time or Type.