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Barwon Health Library Service: PICO

Evidence for Excellence


PICO is one type of framework to develop an evidence based practice literature search strategies.

The acronym stands for:

P - Patient, Problem, or Population (What is the condition or disease?)

I - Intervention (What do you want to do with this patient?)

C - Comparison, or Control, or Comparator (What is the alternative to the intervention?)

O - Outcome (What are the relevant outcomes?)

By using this framework you are able to structure a well-formed clinical search question.

You can also consider alternatives to PICO. including SPIDER, COPES, ECLIPSE, PIPOH, PECODR etc) based on field of study (eg: medicine, OT, social work, speech pathology, oncology etc).

Kloda LA., Bartlett JC (2014) Formulating Answerable Questions: Question Negotiation in Evidence-based Practice. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association / Journal De L’Association Des Bibliothèques De La Santé Du Canada, 34(2), 55-60. 

Please contact us or Book a Consultation for more information on using PICO or other evidence based literature searching tools

PICO Widget for OVID Resources


P: Patient, Population, Problem or disease
    who are the patients, what is the problem
I: Intervention or Issue
    what we do to them, what are they exposed to
C: Comparison intervention or issue
    what do we compare the intervention with
O: Outcome
    what happens, what is the outcome