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Evidence Based Practice: Step 2: PICO


PICO is a mnemonic used to both write clinical questions and conduct database searches. Each letter of the mnemonic represents a different aspect of a clinical question.

Population/Patient/Problem Who is your patient? What is their condition? How would you describe them?
Intervention What type of intervention is being considered? Interventions can include medication, surgery, or therapy
Comparison What are you comparing the intervention against? Comparators could be a gold standard treatment, or no treatment at all
Outcome What are you hoping to achieve as a result of the intervention?

Watch the video below for more information on how to use PICO to break down a research question.

PICO can adapted to find qualitative research, which is commonly used in population health, medical education research, and healthcare service. The table below shows how each element of the framework can be adjusted to find qualitative literature. 

Population What are the characteristics of the patient or population? Which condition or disease are you interested in?
Intervention A defined event, experience, activity, or process that the patients will be exposed to
Comparison The patient's setting or distinct characteristics; barriers to health interventions; regional comparisons
Outcome How will the outcome be measured? (e.g. questionnaires, surveys, interviews)


Step 1: Identify the
type of question


Using PICO to break
down a question

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