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Health Occupations

nursing and dental research resources

How to Use PICO to Find Research Articles

PICO is a tool for creating a research question. Put a clinical question in the PICO format to help you put together your research query.

Here's a research question: In adult patients with total hip replacements how effective is early ambulation (Intervention of interest) compared to bed rest on decreasing post-op Deep Vein Thrombosis?

  • Patient/Problem: adults with total hip replacement
  • Intervention: early ambulation
  • Comparison: bed rest
  • Outcome: post-operative DVT

Confused About PICO Terms?

Learn how to write a PICO query.  You might not have all these elements before you start finding research.

  • P - Patient or Problem: Describe the most important characteristics of the patient.  (e.g., age, disease or condition, sex of patient)
  • I – Intervention: Describe the main intervention. (e.g., drug or other treatment, diagnostic/screening test)
  • C – Comparison: Is there an alternative treatment to compare? If appropriate, describe the main alternative being considered. (e.g., placebo, standard therapy, or no treatment)
  • O – Outcome: Describe what you’re trying to accomplish, measure, improve, affect. (e.g., reduced mortality or morbidity, improved memory, accurate diagnosis)

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence based practice is a method for using the best current research along with the nurse's clinical judgement and the patient's values or preferences to provide the best care.

The research involves processes for creating a search query, evaluating research articles, and refining the research process to find the most relevant current recommendations.  Then those findings are applied to the current clinical setting. The PICO framework is a great tool for creating an refining the research queries to search the scholarly (journal) literature.

Levels of Evidence

Levels of Evidence Pyramid