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Nursing Picot Question Guide

What is a PICOT Question?

A PICOT question is a structured way of framing a clinical question in nursing and healthcare research. It provides a systematic approach to identify the key elements of the research question, making it easier to search for relevant evidence and apply it to clinical practice.

The Importance of PICOT Questions

PICOT questions are crucial in evidence-based practice (EBP) because they:

  1. Identify specific patient problems or areas of interest: By clearly defining the population and the problem, PICOT questions help nurses focus their research on relevant and meaningful clinical issues.
  2. Narrow down the research focus: The structured format of PICOT questions helps narrow the scope of the research, making it more manageable and focused.
  3. Search for relevant evidence more effectively: By breaking down the question into its components, PICOT questions make it easier to identify relevant keywords and search terms, leading to more targeted and efficient literature searches.
  4. Apply research findings to improve patient care: By aligning the research question with the key components of clinical practice (population, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time), PICOT questions facilitate the translation of research findings into practical clinical applications.

Building a PICOT Question

P – Patient/Population

Definition: The patient or population group that is the focus of your clinical question. This could be a specific age group, gender, medical condition, or any other characteristic that defines the target population.


  • Adults aged 65 and older with osteoarthritis
  • Pregnant women in their third trimester
  • Children aged 5-12 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


  • Be as specific as possible in defining the population to ensure the research is relevant and applicable.
  • Consider factors like age, gender, ethnicity, or comorbidities that may impact the research question or the applicability of the findings.

I – Intervention

Definition: The treatment, therapy, intervention, or diagnostic test you want to investigate or evaluate.


  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program
  • Low-dose aspirin therapy
  • Rapid antigen testing for COVID-19


  • Clearly define the intervention, including any relevant details such as dosage, frequency, duration, or specific techniques used.
  • Consider the feasibility and practicality of implementing the intervention in clinical practice.

C – Comparison

Definition: The alternative intervention, treatment, or standard of care you want to compare with the intervention being investigated. This component helps evaluate the effectiveness or superiority of the intervention relative to the comparison.


  • Usual care (e.g., standard exercise program)
  • Placebo or no treatment
  • Medication A vs. Medication B


  • If there is no relevant comparison intervention, this component can be omitted from the PICOT question.
  • The comparison should be a realistic and accepted alternative or standard of care.

O – Outcome

Definition: The desired outcome, result, or endpoint you want to measure or achieve through the intervention.


  • Reduced pain levels (measured using a validated pain scale)
  • Improved quality of life (measured using a quality of life assessment tool)
  • Decreased hospital readmission rates


  • Clearly define how the outcome will be measured, using validated and reliable assessment tools or objective measures.
  • Consider both primary and secondary outcomes, as well as potential adverse effects or unintended consequences.

T – Time

Definition: The time frame or duration over which the intervention will be implemented and the outcome measured.


  • 6 weeks
  • 1 year
  • During hospital stay
  • Follow-up at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year


  • Ensure that the time frame is realistic and appropriate for the intervention and the expected outcome.
  • Consider whether the outcome should be measured at multiple time points (e.g., short-term and long-term follow-up).

Putting it All Together

Here’s another example of a complete PICOT question:

In pregnant women with gestational diabetes (P), does a structured exercise program (I), compared to standard prenatal care (C), improve glycemic control (O) during the third trimester (T)?

Related Articles

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(PICO) Questions

How to write a PICO Question for Nursing Class


How do you write a Picot question for nursing?
Well-composed PICO(T) questions generally contain up to four components each represented in the acronym “PICO(T)” P=Patient or Population and Problem; I=Intervention or Indicator; C=Comparison or Control (not part of all questions); O=Outcome; T=Time or Type.

What is the PICO model of nursing?
These make up the four elements of the PICO model: Patient / Problem, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome.

PICO – database search strategy example

In patients at high risk for gallbladder dysfunction (P) is a HIDA scan (I) compared with an ultrasound (C) more accurate in diagnosis (O)?

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