The first step in doing evidence-based practice research is forming a researchable question. Questions that are too broad or too narrow can make your research difficult, if not impossible.
PICOT is a mnemonic that helps you remember the key components of a well-focused question. It stands for:
In _______(P), what is the effect of _______(I) on ______(O) compared with _______(C) within ________ (T)?
In the aged population, what is the effect of exercise programs on accidental falls, as compared with no exercise?
Are ____ (P) who have _______ (I) at ___ (Increased/decreased) risk for/of_______ (O) compared with ______ (P) with/without ______ (C) over _____ (T)?
Are adult smokers with a history of childhood asthma at increased risk of COPD compared to adult smokers with no history of asthma?
Diagnosis or diagnostic test
Are (is) _________ (I) more accurate in diagnosing ________ (P) compared with ______ (C) for _______ (O)?
Is the Hemoglobin A1C test more accurate in diagnosing diabetes as compared with fasting blood sugar levels?
For ________ (P) does the use of ______ (I) reduce the future risk of ________ (O) compared with _________ (C)?
For people with type 2 diabetes, does zinc supplementation reduce the future risk of foot ulcers compared with placebo?
Does __________ (I) influence ________ (O) in patients who have _______ (P) over ______ (T)?
In adults with osteoarthritis, does low vitamin D levels in the bloodstream predict the rate of future hip fractures?
How do ________ (P) diagnosed with _______ (I) perceive ______ (O) during _____ (T)?
How do cancer patients diagnosed with alopecia perceive their self-esteem during and after chemotherapy?
PICO(T) is commonly used to formulate research questions, sometimes referred to as ‘PI/ECO’ (Population/participants, Intervention/Exposure, Comparison, Outcome). The PI/ECO structure can be readily amended for different question types (NHMRC Guidelines, 2019). A simple example might be:
Once you've developed your question, it's time to find keywords or search terms that you can use in the Library databases to find articles relevant to your question. Remember that each article does not necessarily need to address ALL the aspects of your question.
To learn more about selecting and combining appropriate search terms, please see our guides: