The PICO question is a different way to think about the clinical questions that arise during patient care. Unlike informational questions, these questions are quite complex and sometimes a challenge to formulate. They are comprised of specific types of components, or concepts, and have a purpose throughout the EBP process.
The PICO Formula
It is not coincidence that this process is called formulating. When you formulate a PICO question, you are creating a formula that does several things:
PICO stands for:
Population/patient/problem: who is at the heart of your question?
Intervention: what is being done?
Control/comparison: what is not being done or what treatment is this control group not receiving? (May not always be present in your question)
Outcome: what is the goal of your research question?
Sometimes PICO also involves Time becoming PICOT
Time: is there a specific time period of treatment you are studying?
Click this button to go to PICO Questions: A Tutorial
In a 55 year old man, would the administration of bupropion therapy versus nicotine replacement therapy lead to long-term abstinence from smoking?
Patient/problem/population: mid-50s male with a 30 pack-year history of smoking
Comparison intervention: nicotine replacement therapy
Outcome: long-term abstinence from smoking
Example adapted from
Evidence-Based Practice by Various Authors - See Each Chapter Attribution is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.