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Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing: PICO Questions

This guide provides principles and resources for using evidence-based practice research in nursing and medicine.

Background and Foreground Questions

Ask background questions and foreground questions.

  • Background questions provide the basics for a greater grasp of the concepts.
    • Typically found in textbooks, encyclopedia, or reviews.
    • Not normally asked when clinical decisions are needed to be made about a patient.
  • Foreground questions provide specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions.
    • Typically found in journals and conference proceedings.
    • Require a grasp of the basic concepts from background questions

Formulating a Clinical or PICO Question

How do I Formulate a Clinical, or PICO, Question?

Knowing how to form a PICO question is important for finding evidence. PICO questions focus the scope of your results and help develop keywords to search for evidence. Watch this video to learn more about why PICO questions are important. Also, visit our PICO Research Question Resource Guide to learn more about formulating a PICO question.

Inclusion and Exclusion

Think about inclusion and exclusion criteria to help you select and set boundaries for your searching.

  • Inclusion: Elements that must be present to be eligible for inclusion. For example: 
    • Certain types of studies.
    • Certain geographic locations.
    • Published within last 5 years.
    • Comparison of certain treatments.
  • Exclusion: Elements that disqualify the study from inclusion. For example:
    • Use of wrong types of studies.
    • Published more than 5 years ago.
    • Published in another language (depending on if you can read the language or are looking for articles only pertaining to the U.S.).