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SUNY Downstate Medical Research Library of Brooklyn: Evidence-Based Medicine Course

The Well-Built Clinical Question using PICO(T)

Before starting an EBM search, you must have a clear idea on the type of information you are looking for. What kind of question? What type of intervention, if any, do you want to explore? Do you need more information on the condition, intervention, outcomes, etc

One good way of doing this is to apply a set of questions to the clinical problem. This is called PICOT, which stands for:






Scenario: Therapy Question

A 62 year old otherwise healthy woman wants to try Excedrin for acute migraine pain instead of the prescription Triptan medication that her doctor suggests.


Background information:

What is Triptan? What is Excedrin?

Describe acute Migraine?

Question Components

Your Question

Primary search term

P – Patient or Population Describe the most important characteristics of the patient.

(e.g., age, condition, comorbidities, gender, PMHx,Meds)

Healthy 62 yo woman with migraine


I – Intervention; Prognostic Factor; Exposure

Describe the main intervention.

(e.g., drug or other treatment, diagnostic/screening test)

Excedrin (acetaminophen, caffeine and aspirin)


C – Comparison (if appropriate) Describe the main alternative being considered.

(e.g., placebo, standard therapy, no treatment, the gold standard)



O – Outcome

Describe what you’re trying to accomplish, measure, improve, affect.

(e.g., reduced mortality or morbidity, improved memory, accurate and timely diagnosis)

Relief of symptoms: headache, aura, sensitivity to light, etc

T-- Time

(measurement indicated ( hours, days, weeks, mon years)

Measured in hours


Adapted from Dartmouth Biomedical LIbraries