PICO is a useful tool for asking focused clinical questions.
Slightly different versions of this concept are used to search for quantitative and qualitative reviews, examples are given below.
|Population or Problem||Intervention or Exposure||Comparison||Outcome|
What are the characteristics of the Population or patient?
|How do you wish to Intervene - what do you want to do with this patient - treat, diagnose, observe, etc.?||What is the Comparison or alternative to the intervention - placebo, different drug or therapy, surgery, etc.?||What are the possible Outcomes - morbidity, death, complications, etc.?|
Here is an example of a clinical question that outlines the PICO components:
To develop an effective search strategy, use the PICO worksheet below.
This includes identifying:
For an example, see the completed worksheet.
Use the EBVM Toolkit to guide you through the steps:
applying the PICO method
identifying search words, synonyms, and developing a search strategy
determining levels of evidence
identifying type of study design
|Population or Problem||Interest||Context|
What are the characteristics of the Population or the patient?
|Interest relates to a defined event, activity, experience or process||Context is the setting or distinct characteristics|
Here is an example of a clinical question that outlines the PICo components:
See the completed example worksheet below.
Two other mnemonics may also be used to create protocols for both qualitative and quantitative studies - SPIDER and SPICE.
SPIDER can be used for both qualitative and quantitative studies:
|Sample||Phenomenon of Interest||Design||Evaluation||Research Type|
Sample size may very in qualitative and quantitative studies
|Phenomena of Interest include behaviours, experiences and interventions||Design influences the strength of the study analysis and findings||Evaluation outcomes may include more subjective outcomes - such as views, attitudes, etc.||Research types include qualitative, quantitative or mixed method studies|
Within social sciences research, SPICE may be more appropriate for formulating research questions:
Setting is the context for the question - where
|Perspective is the users, potential users, or stakeholders of the service - for whom||Intervention is the action taken for the users, potential users, or stakeholders - what||Comparison is the alternative actions or outcomes - what else||Evaluation is the result or measurement that will determine the success of the intervention - what result or how well|