Along the lines of my recent posts on evidence-based practice, I have one more thing I’d like to share. It’s something I wish I had known back in nursing school and especially in graduate school while working on my final research paper before graduation. It’s called a PICOT question.

PICOT is an acronym to help you formulate a clinical question and guide your search for evidence. Using this format can help you find the best evidence available in a quicker, more efficient manner. Take a look:

P = patient population

I = intervention or issue of interest

C = comparison intervention or issue of interest

O = outcome

T = time frame

Try using the PICOT format to help you formulate your next clinical question and search for relevant studies and publications. For example, if you wanted to know the effect of flu vaccination on the development of pneumonia in older adults, you could fill in the blanks like this:

In _________(P), how does __________ (I) compared to _________ (C) influence _________ (O) over ________ (T)?

In patients ages 65 and older,  how does the use of an influenza vaccine  compared to not receiving the vaccine  influence their risk of developing pneumonia during the flu season?

What’s your question? Try using the PICOT format and see how it affects your search results! You can find more information, including other templates to help you formulate your question in Asking the Clinical Question: A Key Step in Evidence-Based Practice


Stillwell, S., Fineout-Overholt, E.,  Melnyk, B., & Williamson, K. (2010). Evidence-Based Practice, Step by Step: Asking the Clinical Question A Key Step in Evidence-Based Practice. American Journal of Nursing, 110(3), 58-61.

Woods, A. (2011). Implementing Evidence Into Practice. Webinar. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.