Madonna 'M' Logo: Small
Madonna University Logo: Medium-size
Madonna University Logo: Our Degrees Change Lives
Madonna University Logo: Our Degrees Change Lives
My Portal
| Resource Guides | Nursing Pathfinders | PICO Research Questions

PICO Research Questions Resource Guide

PICO questions or statements take into account the outcome of a current intervention for a disease or problem and compares it to the outcome of a proposed intervention. PICO questions help health-care providers decide which intervention is the most beneficial to the patient. PICO questions or statements need to contain these elements:

  • P - the patient population
  • I - the proposed intervention
  • C - a comparison statement to the existing intervention
  • O - the desired outcome of the intervention

Example: In non-ambulatory patients, (P) does turning the patient (I) compared to pressure mattresses (C ) reduce the risk of pressure ulcers? (O)

To search for evidence-based articles related to your PICO question, identify the keywords for each PICO element.

  • P – Patient, non-ambulatory
  • I – turning
  • C – pressure mattress
  • O – pressure ulcer

Turn these keywords into subject descriptors or MeSH/CINAHL subject headings to use in your database searches. Once you have entered your search terms into the database, narrow down your search by limiting to date range and to “Evidence-based Practice.” You may also narrow your search down to document types such as:

  • Case Studies
  • Clinical Trials
  • Meta-analyses
  • Randomized Control Trials
  • Research
  • Systematic Reviews

Select articles with the highest level of evidence (meta-analyses and systematic reviews). These will yield the best available evidence to support your clinical decisions and explore alternative interventions or treatments to health-related problems in the field.


The following databases are recommended to search for PICO questions:

Check out our Databases Tutorial page to see how to search Cochrane PICO Beta and use CINAHL or MeSH Subject Headings to search in other nursing databases.

Revised 10/20

 Using Cochrane PICO Search Beta

Cochrane PICO Search Beta

Cochrane Library has created a PICO Search Beta function where you can use your PICO elements to search for Cochrane Reviews related to your PICO question.

  • Cochrane's information specialists have used controlled vocabulary terms to describe the PICO components of Cochrane Reviews.
  • You can find the Cochrane PICO Search Beta on this page, or by clicking on the PICO Search Beta tab on the Advanced Search page.

You can also find PICO terms used in the Cochrane Library by searching your topic in the Advanced Search on Cochrane.

  • Click on the Cochrane Reviews tab on the results page. 
  • Show PICOs Beta link can be found under the title of the article. When you click on this, you can see the PICO terms used to describe the articles. 

To learn more about getting started with PICO Search Beta, look at these two tutorials.


The follwing journals are recommended for evidence-based nursing research:

Revised 10/20


The following books are recommended to understand nursing research:



The following websites are recommended for understanding PICO searches: