Journal of Dental and Allied Sciences

: 2017  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 55-

Framing the research question using PICO strategy

Jayant N Palaskar 
 Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Dental and Allied Sciences, Department of Prosthodontics, Sinhgad Dental College and Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Jayant N Palaskar
Department of Prosthodontics, Sinhgad Dental College and Hospital, S.No. 44/1, Off Sinhgad Road, Vadgaon (Bk), Pune - 411 041, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Palaskar JN. Framing the research question using PICO strategy.J Dent Allied Sci 2017;6:55-55

How to cite this URL:
Palaskar JN. Framing the research question using PICO strategy. J Dent Allied Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jun 27 ];6:55-55
Available from:

Full Text


One of the fundamental skills required for practicing evidence-based-medicine is the asking of well-built clinical questions. To benefit patients and clinicians, such questions need to be both directly relevant to patients' problems and phrased in ways that direct search to relevant and precise answers.[1]

Clinical research questions may be categorized as either background or foreground. Determining the type of question will help aid in selecting the best resource to consult for the answer.

Background questions ask for general knowledge about an illness, disease, condition, process, or thing. These types of questions typically ask who, what, where, when, how, and why about things such as a disorder, test, or treatment. Background questions are best answered by medical textbooks, point-of-care tools such as DynaMed and Essential Evidence Plus and narrative reviews.[2]

Foreground questions are generally detailed, and they aim to seek evidence to answer a need for clinical information related to a specific patient, intervention, or therapy. They can best be answered with the information contained in published research studies. Foreground questions[3] ask for specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions. They tend to be more specific and complex compared to background questions. These questions are best answered by consulting medical databases such as MEDLINE (via PubMed or Ovid), Embase, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and ACP Journal Club.[2]

Evidence-based models use a process for framing a question. A clinical question needs to be directly relevant to the patient or problem at hand and phrased in such a way as to facilitate the search for an answer. The PICO process is a technique used in evidence-based practice to frame and answer a clinical or healthcare-related question. The PICO framework is also used to develop literature search strategies.[4]

The PICO acronym stands for:[3]

P: Patient, problem, or population

I: Intervention

C: Comparison

O: Outcome

A well-built research question should have four components. The PICO model[3] is a helpful tool that assists in organizing and focusing a research question into a searchable query. Dividing into the PICO elements helps identify search terms/concepts to use in search of the literature.

P - Patient, problem, population (How would a group of patients be described? What are the most important characteristics of the patients?).

I - Intervention, prognostic factor, exposure (What main intervention/s is/are being considered? What is to be done with the patient? What is the main alternative being considered?).

C - Comparison (What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention? Is difference between two drugs being considered, a drug and no medication or placebo, or two diagnostic tests?).

O - Outcome (What are the desired outcomes being measured: accomplishment, measures, improvement or affect? Outcomes may be disease-oriented or patient-oriented.).

Use of PICO strategy will result in a well-built research question which leads to a study design that will yield the highest level of evidence.


1Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 05].
2Templates from Sonoma State University. [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 05].
3Health (Nursing, Medicine, Allied Health): Search Strategies: Framing the Question (PICO). Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 05].
4Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 05].