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Occupational Therapy Program - Evidence-Based Practice Guide: Asking Clinical Questions



PICO Question Overview

PICO, is a question formula, that allows therapists to develop focused relevant questions addressing clinical decision making and professional scholarly questions.  

PICO Question Attributes:
  • Structures and guides the search for literature evidence 
  • Promotes a relevant, direct, and clear search
  • Answers, What do I want to know about?
  • Focus the question by identifying the components in the question
  • Defines the concepts that will be used when performing a complex literature search
  • Promotes access to professional evidence relevant to the question
  • Determines if the identified evidence is able to efficaciously address the question
  • Focuses on elements to support and update clinical practice
  • ​Provide the information needed to make a decision whether or not the intervention in the PICO question should be implemented

(Duke University, 2014; Upstate Medical University, 2010)



The following are the four specific PICO question components that will promote developing an answerable clinical questions and developing an efficient search strategy.

Patient or Problem

Describe the population or clinical problem?

Intervention, Prognostic Factor, or Exposure

What is the main intervention, prognostic factor, or exposure being considered?

Comparison Intervention

What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention?


What are you trying to accomplish, improve, or affect?

(Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, 2014; Duke University, 2014; Occupational Therapy Evidence-Based Practice in Western New York, n.d.; Upstate Medical University, 2010)




For examples of using a PICO question, review the following short tutorials: