Skip to Main Content

Evidence-Based Practice

What Does PICO Mean?

After first identifying an information need, the next step in evidence-based practice is to re-frame the problem by posing a clearly stated and searchable question. EBP practitioners use a structure called PICO to advance their thoughts from fuzzy and generalized to crisp and precise. 

PICO is a framework for structuring a clinical question by separating it into four components. Framing the PICO helps you identify some of the keywords you will use in searching databases. 

P = What are the significant characteristics of the patient or the population?

I = What intervention are you considering?

C = Are you considering another intervention as a comparison to the first?

O = What is the desired outcome of the intervention(s)?

Time is sometimes a fifth element of PICO.

(T) = How much time does it take for an intervention to reach an outcome?

PICO Worksheets

A PICO worksheet helps you organize your search strategy. Use a worksheet to:

  • Structure your question using the PICO elements.
  • Jot down terms that describe each element of the question, i.e. plain language terms, alternate terms (synonyms), and subject headings. These are terms you plan to search for when you use the database(s).
  • Identify the type of clinical question you are trying to answer, e.g. therapy, prevention, etc.
  • Denote the type(s) of research studies you are going to try to find, e.g. systematic review, RCT, etc.
  • Denote inclusion/exclusion criteria specific to your search, e.g. male or female, age range, etc.
  • List the databases you intend to search, e.g. PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, etc.

 Library staff are available Monday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

    Schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with a librarian   

 Call 402.354.7251  or  Email