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NURS 3290: Nursing Research 2 - BSN Program

This guide is designed to assist you with conducting research for your course assignments in NURS 3290: Nursing Research 2

Formulating a PICO(T) Question

Asking questions is at the heart of evidence-based practice.

If nurses never asked questions about how to improve patient care based on scientific research evidence, then no beneficial changes or advancements in nursing practice would occur. Cultivating a spirit of inquiry is essential for evidence-based practice implementation.

The PICO(T) model is used widely in evidence-based practice to construct a focused, well-built, and searchable clinical question. This page provides you with the following content to guide you in developing a PICO(T) question of your own:

What is a PICO(T) Question?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a systematic approach to patient care decision-making based on current, best available research evidence. 

The first step in EBP involves re-phrasing a clinical patient care issue in the form of a focused, searchable, and answerable question

PICO(T) is a template for creating a well-built clinical question for evidence-based inquiry.

P - Patient/Population/Problem

I - Intervention/Variable of Interest

C - Comparison ("standard care" or "usual care")

O - Outcome(s)

T - Time

In _____ (P), what is the effect of _____ (I), compared with _____ (C), on _____ (O) within _____ (T)?

Tips for Building a PICO(T) Question

PICO(T) Elements How to Identify Each PICOT Element



Who is your patient or population?

Consider the following:

  • Age group
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Healthcare setting

What is your patient/population's problem?

Consider the following:

  • Condition or illness
  • Disease process
  • Diagnosis
  • Life situation
  • Nursing diagnosis
  • Symptoms
  • Self-care deficits


Intervention/Variable of Interest

What intervention can you as a nurse implement for your patient/population? 

Consider the following:

  • Nursing interventions
  • Therapies
  • Alternative/complementary/holistic therapies
  • Medication administration/management
  • Pharmacologic interventions
  • Non-pharmacologic interventions 
  • Procedures
  • Patient education techniques



For NURS 3290, your C (Comparison) will be standard care or usual care 



What is the desired outcome or optimal effect of the intervention?

Consider the following:

  • Improvement of [fill in the blank]
  • Prevention/prophylaxis of [fill in the blank]
  • Reduction in [fill in the blank]
  • Decreased rate of [fill in the blank]
  • Patient outcomes
  • Quality of life
  • Patient safety
  • Satisfaction
  • Knowledge



How long would it take to reach a desired outcome? Or, what is the time frame of your patient scenario?

Consider the following:

  • Within [fill in the blank] weeks/months/year(s)
  • Preoperative/perioperative/postoperative period
  • Hospital length of stay
  • Patient's lifespan
  • Patient's treatment duration
  • Recovery period
  • These are only examples. The timeframe can be very specific or very broad. 


Ideas for Your PICO(T) Question

Your required textbook provides a wealth of material for generating and brainstorming ideas for PICO(T) Questions. 

Be sure to review Chapter 8 in your Introduction to Evidence-Based Practice text for ideas and examples of clinical questions for EBP. 

Two copies of this book are on reserve in the Mulford Library. To use a copy in the library, please ask a staff member at the library front desk to retrieve it for you. 

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

Example: PICO(T) Question and Search Strategy

PICO(T) Question Example: 

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

Building a Database Search Strategy for the PICO(T) Question: 

  • A well-built PICO(T) question forms the basis of a database search strategy for finding research literature.
  • Concepts from the PICO(T) question are used to construct a comprehensive database search strategy with search terms describing each relevant component of the PICO(T). 
  • Relevant elements of your PICO(T) question can be used to develop a "starter" list of keywords (including synonyms) to use in a database search. Most commonly, the most important parts of a PICO(T) question for searching are the P, I, and O. 
  • After developing a "starter" list of search terms, you can then begin brainstorming your search strategy for combining terms with OR or AND, and using other techniques such as a truncation (i.e. a keyword search for letharg* will also find articles with the term lethargic or lethargy):
PICO(T) Elements Example Starter List of Synonyms and Search Terms Initial Keyword Search Strategy
P - Patient/Population/Problem Adult cancer patients experiencing fatigue











cancer* OR neoplasm* OR oncolog* OR tumor* OR tumour* OR malignan*


fatigue* OR tired* OR letharg* OR exhaust*

I - Intervention/Variable of Interest Meditation






Guided imagery

meditat* OR mindful* OR breath* OR relax* OR yoga OR "guided imagery"
C - Comparison (may be "standard care" or "usual care") Standard care Not needed as a search term  
O - Outcome(s) Improving quality of life

Quality of life

Quality of living

Life quality


"quality of life" OR "quality of living" OR "life quality" OR well-being OR wellbeing OR "well being"
T - Time 6 months Not needed as a search term