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PAMM104 Finding evidence: Formulating answerable questions

Online tutorial

Formulating answerable questions

Formulating an answerable search question is a key starting point in the research process. When we talk about formulating an answerable question, we mean the process of breaking down a topic of interest into a focused question that we can answer by searching within the academic literature. Without a focused question, we won't find what we need in the vast scientific literature
You can use the PICO framework to help you structure your search question and help you to find the information you need most effectively. 
Using PICO to define well-formed questions is an important part of evidence-based medicine and ensures the applicability of research to the patient or population.


Types of questions

Watch the video below for an introduction to forming an answerable question and the PICO structure.


PICO is a structure you can use to create focused foreground questions. PICO helps to break down a clinical scenario and turn it into an answerable question that can be used to search for evidence. Foreground questions have three to four essential elements, usually a  populationintervention (or 'indicator') and an outcome.

When using the framework, it's not necessary to use every category, the categories are simply there to guide you in forming a evidence-based question. Many clearly defined questions do not have a comparison or control to consider, so don't worry if this category isn't applicable for your topic.

PICO will make it easier to select the most important keywords to search upon and help you narrow the focus of your topic or question to get a manageable number of relevant search results. Click on the 'i' icons for each section to learn how you decide what information you should include in each section.

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