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NURS 405: Research in Healthcare

PICOT Question

"A well-built PICOT question increases the likelihood that the best evidence to inform practice will be found" 

Stillwell, S., Fineout-Overholt, E., Melnyk, B., & Williamson, K. (2010). Evidence-based practice step by step: Asking the clinical question: A key step in evidence-based practice. The American Journal Of Nursing, 110(3), 58-61.

* Before formulating a PICOT question, you may often begin by asking background and foreground questions...

  • Background questions are broad or general questions about a clinical problem or disease
  • Foreground questions are specific to a disease or clinical issue - PICOT is a strategy for shaping a foreground question  


PICOT is an acronym that is used to represent the clinical question:

(P) Patient population, or group of patients of interest

(I) Intervention, treatment, or issue of interest

(C) Comparison or alternative intervention, or issue of interest

(O) Outcome(s) of interest

(T) Time for intervention to achieve or demonstrate the outcome


Here is an example of a clinical question in PICOT format:

  • In _________(P), how does __________ (I) compared to _________ (C) influence _________ (O) over ________ (T)?
  • In patients ages 65 and older, how does the use of an influenza vaccine compared to not receiving the vaccine influence their risk of developing pneumonia during the flu season?


Additional Examples

  • Are kids (P) who have obese adoptive parents (I) at Increased risk for obesity (O) compared with kids (P) without obese adoptive parents (C) during the ages of five and 18 (T)?
  • What is the duration of recovery (O) for patients with total hip replacement (P) who developed a post-operative infection (I) as opposed to those who did not (C) within the first six weeks of recovery (T)?
  • How do pregnant women (P) newly diagnosed with diabetes (I) perceive reporting their blood sugar levels (O) to their healthcare providers during their pregnancy and six weeks postpartum (T)?

Question Templates

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.

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