Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

NRS307: Nursing Care of the Adult Population I: Clinical Questions & PICO

What is a Clinical Question?

Creating a clinical question helps medical professionals find the best possible research efficiently to help them make decisions regarding a patient's care. Clinical questions can be broadly categorized as either background or foreground questions.  

► Background Questions ask for general knowledge about a condition, test or treatment.  These types of questions typically ask who, what, where, when, how & why about things like a disorder, test, or treatment, or other aspect of healthcare.  Example: What are the clinical manifestations of menopause?

► Foreground Questions ask for specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions. These questions typically concern a specific patient or particular population. They tend to be more specific and complex than background questions.  Quite often, foreground questions investigate comparisons, such as two drugs, or two treatments.  Example: In patients with osteoarthritis of the hip, is water therapy more effective than land-based exercise in restoring range-of-motion? 

Source: Evidence-Based Practice in Health (Canberra)

What is PICO?

PICO is a mnemonic for the important parts of a well-built clinical question. PICO can also help formulate searching strategies by identifying the key concepts that need to be addressed in the article to answer the clinical question.

Evidence-Based Practice: PICO Research Guide (Duke)

^This Research Guide provides a comprehensive overview of Evidence-Based Practice & PICO. 

Helpful Links

Introduction to Evidence-Based Practiced Tutorials (Duke)

^This is a great online tutorial with sample case studies & activities to help you understand EBP.

Evidence-Based Practice in Health (Canberra)

^This link provides insight to different types of clinicals questions and their context in the medical field. 

PICO Elements of a Clinical Question

Examples of PICO Elements

Common Types of Clinical Questions

► Therapy Questions: 

how to select treatments to offer our patients that do more good than harm and that are worth the efforts and costs of using them.

► Diagnostic Tests:

how to select and interpret diagnostic tests, in order to confirm or exclude a diagnosis, based on considering their precision, accuracy, acceptability, expense, safety, etc.

► Prognosis Questions:

how to estimate a patient's likely clinical course over time due to factors other than interventions

► Harm/Etiology Questions: 

how to identify causes for disease (including its iatrogenic forms).

Source: Evidence-Based Practice: PICO (Duke)

Using PICO Elements When Searching