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DNP Evidence-Based Practice Project: Library Resources: PICOT Question

This guide is designed to assist graduate students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with the research and scholarly writing components of the final DNP Project.

Identifying a Clinical Problem for your PICOT Question

Identifying a clinical problem that can be translated into a PICOT question takes some brainstorming, research, and planning.

The following recommendations can help in triggering ideas for your PICOT question:

Problem-Focused or Practice-Focused Triggers:

  • Patient cases you have encountered
  • Clinical scenarios you have observed
  • Quality improvement data
  • Other internal data specific to your organization

Knowledge-Focused Triggers:

  • Conduct a search of the research literature to identify problems or practice recommendations
  • Identify interventions that have been proven effective by previous studies
  • Clinical practice guidelines recommendations

Helpful web resources for PICOT question ideas can be accessed below: 

Articles & Web Resources

PICOT Question Example

Let's consider the following clinical scenario: 

You are an oncology nurse and you notice a great amount of fatigue in many of the cancer patients that you see.  While at a recent nursing conference, you attended a session on the use of yoga in managing fatigue in general.  You are curious if yoga could be effective in cancer patients' fatigue.  You take this idea back to your hospital's Nursing Research Council who then decided to implement this as an EBP project to see if yoga improves cancer patients' fatigue in 6 months.

PICOT serves as a framework for rephrasing your scenario into a clinical question.

P - Patient/population/problem

I - Intervention/issue/area of interest

C - Comparison (this may be something specific or usual care/standard care

O - Outcome(s)

T - Time

PICOT Framework
In (P) cancer patients with fatigue
what is the effect of (I) yoga
compared with (C) usual care
on (O) quality of life
within (T) 6 months 

You now have a focused, searchable, and well-built clinical question:

"In cancer patients with fatigue (P), what is the effect of yoga (I), compared with usual care (C), on quality of life (O) within 6 months (T)?" 

This PICOT question can then be used to develop comprehensive search terms in library databases to locate relevant research evidence to support your PICOT. 

PICOT Search Strategy Worksheet

Your PICOT question will serve as the foundation of your literature search strategy for your EBP project literature review, by utilizing the key terminology from your PICOT components as database search terms. Use the following PICOT Search Strategy Worksheet to brainstorm keywords and search terms, and craft your search strategy.

For guidance in developing a search strategy to find evidence in support of your PICOT question, contact your Nursing Librarian Jodi Jameson for assistance (jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu, 419.383.5152) or to schedule an appointment. 

Video Tutorial