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The PICO Research Question

A strategy aimed at asking good clinical questions that will help in developing a research question

How Do I Say It?......Common Categories of PICO Questions

It is important to note that there are different types or categories of PICO questions, as evidenced below. The type of question can at times guide your research design or process in order to best answer your question. In other words, the type of your PICO question may dictate what types of research, sources, or levels of evidence that you are looking for. 

Determine in which category your question would best fit.  Use the template to help you word it succinctly and correctly.

For an Intervention or 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)?

For 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)?

Based on Melnyk, B., & Fineout-Overholt E. (2010). Evidence-based practice in nursing & healthcare.  New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Examples Please!

Adjust the templates as needed to fit the research question:


In adult patients with total hip replacement (P) how effective is PCA pain medication (I) compared to prn IM pain medication (C or standard care) in controlling post operative pain (O) during the perioperative and recovery time (T)?


Are children (P) who have obese adoptive parents (I) at increased risk for obesity (O) compared with children (P) without obese adoptive parents (C) during the age of five to 18 (T)?

Is a PKU test (I) done on two week old infants (P) more accurate compared with PKU test done at 24 hours of age (C) for diagnosis of inborn errors of metabolism (O)?  

In OR nurses doing a five minute scrub (P), what are the differences in the presence and types of microbes (O) found on natural polished nails (I) and artificial nails (C) at the time of surgery (T)?


Does telemonitoring blood pressure (I) improve blood pressure control (O) in urban African Americans with hypertension (P) within six months (T) of initiation of the medication?


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)?