PICOT Questions

PICOT Questions for nursing research

PICOT is an acronym to help you formulate a clinical question and guide your search for evidence. Using this format can help you find the best evidence available in a quicker, more efficient manner.  Therefore, the PICOT question format is a consistent “formula” for developing answerable, researchable questions. When you write a good one, it makes the rest of the process of finding and evaluating evidence much more straightforward.

P: Population/patient – age, gender, ethnicity, individuals with a certain disorder

I: Intervention/indicator (Variable of Interest) – exposure to a disease, risk behavior, prognostic factor

C: Comparison/control – could be a placebo or “business as usual” as in no disease, absence of risk factor, Prognostic factor B

O: Outcome – risk of disease, accuracy of a diagnosis, rate of occurrence of adverse outcome

T: Time – the time it takes for the intervention to achieve an outcome or how long participants are observed

PICOT Questions Tutorial

 Template for Asking PICOT Questions

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.

Intervention/Therapy: Questions addressing the treatment of an illness or disability.

Etiology: Questions addressing the causes or origins of disease (i.e., factors that produce or predispose toward a certain disease or disorder).

Diagnosis: Questions addressing the act or process of identifying or determining the nature and cause of a disease or injury through evaluation.

Prognosis/Prediction: Questions addressing the prediction of the course of a disease.

Meaning: Questions addressing how one experiences a phenomenon.

 Sample Questions:

Intervention: In African-American female adolescents with hepatitis B (P), how does acetaminophen (I) compared to ibuprofen (C) affect liver function (O)?

Therapy: In children with spastic cerebral palsy (P), what is the effect of splinting and casting(I) compared to constraint- induced therapy (C) on two-handed skill development (O)?


 1) For patients 65 years and older (P), how does the use of an influenza vaccine (I) compared to not received the vaccine (C) influence the risk of developing pneumonia (O) during flu season (T)?

2) In patients who have experienced an acute myocardial infarction (P), how does being a smoker (I) compared to a non-smoker (C) influence death and infarction rates (O) during the first 5 years after the myocardial infarction (T)?

Diagnosis: In middle-aged males with suspected myocardial infarction (P), are serial 12-lead ECGs (I) compared to one initial 12-lead ECG (C) more accurate in diagnosing an acute myocardial infarction (O)?

Etiology: Are 30- to 50-year-old women (P) who have high blood pressure (I) compared with those without high blood pressure (C) at increased risk for an acute myocardial infarction (O) during the first year after hysterectomy (T)?

 Meaning: How do young males (P) with a diagnosis of below the waist paralysis (I) perceive their interactions with their romantic significant others (O) during the first year after their diagnosis (T)?

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

Examples of Evidence-Based PICOT Questions

 PICOT Question:

Population: Bariatric adolescents considering or undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Intervention: The nurse’s role as a primary member of the multidisciplinary team regarding perioperative care of the bariatric adolescent patient.

Comparison: The nurse’s role as a secondary member of the multidisciplinary team without any specialized training and is only involved in perioperative care of the bariatric adolescent patient.

Outcome: When the nurse is involved as one of the primary members in the multidisciplinary team approach, the bariatric adolescent patient has better continuity of care.

Time: perioperative including the 6 weeks post recovery.

PICOT Question: Does the bariatric adolescent patient undergoing gastric bypass have better continuity of care perioperatively and postoperatively when the nurse is a primary member of the multidisciplinary team versus when the nurse is a secondary member whose only role is in providing perioperative care and has no specialized training?

PICOT Questions

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