Evidence Based Practice (EBP)

PICO/PEO Questions

An important step in an evidence-based practice process is formulating an answerable question. This forms the foundation for quality evaluation and searching. A well-formulated question will facilitate the search for evidence and will assist you in determining whether the evidence is relevant to your question. The PICO process is a technique used in evidence based practice (EBP) to frame and answer a clinical or health related question.

PICO stands for:

  • Problem that you want to investigate
  • Population/patients of interest
  • Intervention you would like to investigate
  • Comparison with another intervention (or no intervention - this category is optional)
  • Outcome that is likely or that is desired, and how it will be measured

Additional categories are sometimes included: Type of study (which we’ll cover more on the next page), Timing (how long should the treatment last or are you investigating a certain time period such as preoperative?), Type of question (therapy, diagnosis, prevention, or other?), or Setting (hospital, ICU). 

Here is an example of putting PICO in action with

  • P: in middle aged, male amputees suffering phantom limb pain
  • I: is gabapentin,
  • C: compared with placebo,
  • O: effective in decreasing pain symptoms?

PICO in action graphic

From Murdoch University, Systematic Reviews guide

PEO is another framework that is especially useful when investigating a prognosis or likelihood of developing a certain condition as a result of a pre-existing condition or exposure.

PEO stands for:

  • Population/Patient: how would you describe the patient or population of interest?
  • Exposure: what pre-existing conditions does the patient/population have or what has the patient/population been exposed to?
  • Outcome: the outcome of interest; unlike in PICO, the outcome is almost always used in the search terms with the PEO framework.

PEO framework information taken from the University of Colorado’s Libraries PICO/PEO libguide

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