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
- Randomized Control Trials
- 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.
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.
- A 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.
The follwing journals are recommended for evidence-based nursing research:
The following books are recommended to understand nursing research:
- The Research Process in Nursing – edited by Kate Gerrish & Anne Lacey
- Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence – Caroline De Brun & Nicola Pearce-Smith
The following websites are recommended for understanding PICO searches:
- Cochrane Library: How to get Started with a PICO Search – Cochrane Library’s tutorial on using the Cochrane PICO Search
- Forming Evidence-Based Questions – UCLA’s online guide to creating and using PICO questions in evidence-based research.
- Going from PICO Question to Useful Library Search Terms – Purdue University Global’s guide to finding library keywords in your PICO question.
- PICO Linguist Form – National Library of Medicine’s interactive form to help create a PICO question.
- PICO Tutorial – University of Wyoming’s in-depth guide to creating, planning, and using PICO questions in your research.
- 7 Steps to the Perfect PICO Search – EBSCOhost’s pamphlet on creating a PICO questions, coming up with keywords, and conducting a PICO search.
- Types of Evidence – Grand Valley State University’s handout on what types of evidence is best for your PICO searches.
- Using PICO to Structure Your Literature Search Video – University of Alberta Library’s video tutorial about using PICO questions to help find medical literature.