PICO is used in Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) to help frame the focused research question from a topic, or perhaps a very broad initial question. This helps create a strategy for searching the health science and medical literature, ensuring you search for articles relevant to your question and not your overall topic.
When presented with a case or research topic, PICO helps formulate your clinical/research question. It is useful to note all keywords and possible synonyms so that you can easily plug them into a PICO question format (see the "formulating your question" box.) Keywords and Synonyms will also act as the base for both your simple and advance search strategies.
TIP: Please note that not all parts of PICO will be present in your question.
Alternative formats are PICOT, PICOTT, or PICOM. The additional letters are below.
Jimmy is a five year old with a large wart on his hand. His previous warts have been “burned off” using cryotherapy, a treatment he found painful. His mother read on the internet about using duct tape to remove warts and wants to know if it will work.
Is this a Diagnosis, Therapy, Prognosis, Etiology/harm, or Prevention question? (See the "Formulating Your Question" box for phrasing help.)
A hearing test is an important component of the physical exam of elderly patients. Dr. Smith knows that some clinicians simply ask patients about their hearing ability and others use a tuning fork to test it, but he thinks that a simple whispered voice test is very accurate. Challenged to back this up with evidence at morning report tomorrow, he has come to you to help do a literature search.
Further practice can be completed by viewing Dartmouth's full list of PICO scenarios.
Scenarios credited to Dartmouth Biomedical Libraries.
Dartmouth EBM Guide: https://researchguides.dartmouth.edu/evidence-basedmedicine
The resources below provide PICO search bars that you can plug your terms straight into. Cochrane is still in the Beta phase and may present usability issues as a result.