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Formulating a search question: 1. Formulating a question

A quick guide to introduce you to formulating a search question using PICO

What is PICO?

Formulating an answerable search question is essential to finding the best evidence for your topic. You can use the PICO framework to help you structure your search question and enable you to find the information you need most effectively. 

PICO is a method of searching for evidence, commonly used within health and medicine. It helps to break down a clinical scenario and turn it into a clinical question.

PICO stands for:

How to decide what goes in each section

Patient/Population/Problem Intervention Comparison Outcome
Who is the scenario about? What is happening to the patient? What could be done instead of that intervention? What happens to the patient as a result of the intervention?
What is the disease or condition you need to research? Are there any characteristics of the patient or population that are important, e.g. age or gender? Usually this will be a form of treatment. This doesn't always need to be completed; sometimes there will be an alternative treatment that you can include, but sometimes there will be no comparison. What are the intended and potential outcomes? There may be successful treatment, but there may also be potential side effects or problems to consider. 
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