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HSS 534

PICO

One way of focusing your question is by using the PICO format (you may also see PICO(T) or PICOTT). PICO includes several factors that, when searched together, comprise a well-built clinical question. It includes:

  • Patient, Population, and/or Problem - Who or what is your question about?
  • Intervention, Prognostic Factor, or Exposure - How do you want to treat your patient?
  • Comparison - What is the standard of care in this situation? What other treatments have been used in past trials?
  • Outcome - What is the intended result?

You can clarify your intended results at the outset with additional, optional factors:

  • Time - Duration of study, duration between intervention and outcome
  • Type of Question - Therapy, Etiology, Diagnosis, Prognosis, Prevention
  • Type of Study - Meta-Analysis, Systematic Review, Randomized Controlled Trial, Cohort Study, Case Control Study 
 Keep in mind that if you are having a difficult time converting your topic into a question, you may not know enough about it to perform a search! Use some of the Background Knowledge resources in the left column to round out your understanding.

 

Take the following sample question:

In adult patients with Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), does the consumption of plant-based saturated fats when compared to a monounsaturated fat result in a more improved CVD risk metabolic profile?

This example covers all elements of PICO, and provides us four distinct elements to convert into search terms:

  • Patient - adult patients with Cardiovascular Disease
  • Intervention - consumption of plant-based saturated fats
  • Comparison -  monounsaturated fat
  • Outcome - improved CVD risk profile

In the next section, "Levels of Evidence," you'll learn more about identifying the best possible evidence and the different types of clinical questions.


Resources:

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