Formulating a PICOT question

In order to come up with the best evidence-based practice in nursing, a series of research is usually conducted. At the core of the research, you have to present a clinical research question that you hope to answer in your project. The question takes must take the form of the PICOT format, hence the PICOT question.

A PICOT question is a type of foreground question in that it is more complex and seeks to provide scientific evidence-based practice in nursing healthcare as the foundation for clinical decisions

As you search this guide you will find information that will be useful in helping you come up with the perfect PICO questions and how to formulate them using the latest versions of examples,

The PICOT Question Format

The PICOT format is important in summarizing the core components of your research question so that you are able to address all the important elements of your research

PICOT is a mnemonic that stands for

P Population, patient or problem. The patient or the population represents the sample of the people that you wish to conduct the research on. The problem is the issue that you seek to address.

I Intervention. These are the measures, solutions or treatment that you will present to the patient population or the problem in your study.

C Comparison or control. The term “comparison” refers to what you intend to use as a reference group to compare your treatment intervention to. This is referred to as the control group in many study designs. If an existing treatment is regarded as the ideal standard it should be used as the comparison or control group.

O Outcome or objectives. These are the objectives that you wish to achieve or the outcomes that you want to get out of your research based on the interventions you have made.

T- Time. This refers to the duration that your research will take.

In summary, a good PICO question addresses, who your patient is (their age, gender, sex, disease), what you plan to do for the patient ( therapies, medication) and what other alternatives exists for your plan.

The PICOT Formula is Important Because

  • It highlights the focus of the question by identifying the key concepts and components
  • It defines what literature will be used in performing a complex search
  • It provides the evidence needed to determine whether the interventions should be implemented in a clinical scenario

What are The Types of PICOT Questions

PICOT generally arises from 6 aspects of clinical areas namely

Clinical Evidence.

These are the proven summaries of what works and what does not in a clinical setting

Diagnosis or Diagnostic Test.

This is the unique identification of a condition based on symptoms.

Prognosis/ Predictions

This is defined as the likely cause of a particular condition.

Examples of prognostic factor PICO questions are


Such a question seeks to offer some sort of therapeutic measure or intervention.


This seeks to provide interventions that are preventative in nature,


This is aimed at educating a certain group of people about a specific subject.

Examples of PICOT questions

Prognosis/ Prediction Questions

  • In women under the age of 50 (P), is an early mammogram (I) effective in combating breast cancer(O) as compared to a mammogram every three years? (C)
  • Does telelmonitoring blood pressure ( I )in African Americans with hypertension( P )improve blood pressure control ( O) within six months of commencing the medication? (T)

Prevention questions

  • For adult patients over age 60, ( P) does daily 30 minutes exercise regimen( I ) reduce the future risk of a heart attack( O ) as compared to no exercise at all? ( C)

Diagnosis/ Diagnostic test

Is PKU test( I) more accurate in diagnosis inborn errors in metabolism( O )of two-week-old infants ( P) compared to a PKU test done at 24 hours of age? ( C)



  • How effective is PCA pain medication (I) versus prn IM pain medication (C) in controlling post-operative pain (O) in adults undergoing total hip replacement (P) during the perioperative and recovery time? (T)
  • What is the effect of a school-based physical activity program (I) on the incidence of childhood obesity (O) in school-age children (P) compared to no intervention (C) over a one-year period (T)?

Meaning question

  • How do first-time mothers (P) of premature babies in the NICU (I) feel about bonding with their baby (O) during the first month after birth (T)?
  • How do pregnant women (P) who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes (I) feel about reporting their blood sugar levels (O) to their healthcare providers during their pregnancy and six weeks postpartum? (T)
  • During the first six( T) months how do teenagers ( P) diagnosed with cancer( I )feel about chemotherapy and radiation treatments? ( O )


  • Are kids ( P) without obese adoptive parents at lower risk for obesity ( O) compared to kids P with obese adoptive parents( C) during the ages between 5 and 18? (T)
  • Are males 50 years of age and older (P) with a smoking history of one year or less (I) at an increased future risk of developing oesophagal cancer (O) compared to males 50 years of age and older (P) with no smoking history (C)?

PICOT questions are important for research in evidence-based practice because it helps you to anticipate the lookout for outcomes and eliminates unexpected results when finally put into practice in patient care.

Be sure to use modern browsers to look up the most recent and updated research literature for coming up with your clinical research content.

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