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Evidence-Based Medicine: Review and Practice: Assess & Ask: Developing clear complete clinical questions

Created by Health Science Librarians

PICO is a widely-used acronym to assist in remembering the key components of a clinical question.  PICO clarifies and focuses questions that arise during a patient assessment.


It identifies and organizes the main ideas of a PICO stands for patient/population, intervention or issue, comparison, and outcomecomplex patient presentation: 


P = Patient or Population;
I = Intervention or Issue;

C = Comparison or Control;
O = Outcome.


You can also add Type of Question, Type of Study, or Setting to the PICO framework to create PICOTTS.


Not all parts of PICO are required!

PICO is a framework to help you narrow your topic.‚Äč You do not have to use all of the letters in PICOTTS to have a specific question.

There are 38 varieties of question frameworks like PICO.

Question frameworks vary by discipline, methodology, and by the type of question you are asking.  If one framework doesn’t fit, try another!  Learn more about the frameworks in the article Formulating questions to explore complex interventions within qualitative evidence synthesis.