Skip to Main Content

NR 265: Evidence Based Professional Nursing Practice

PICO(T) Questions

Searching for evidence in the literature can be tricky. 

To begin, select ONE concept from your PICO(T) question - choose from the Population, the Intervention, or the Outcome. You will usually need to broaden your search in order to give yourself the opportunity to discover current evidence related to the topic. 

Your PICO(T) question is a starting point! You will have to change it as you search the literature and discover research articles.

Only your instructor can approve your PICO(T) question.  But Ursuline librarians are database navigation EXPERTS!  We can help you develop a better search strategy and find the type of articles your instructor wants you to find. Good articles will make it easier for you to formulate a PICO(T) question that is answerable in the literature.  

Schedule an appointment with Tabitha Barr for one-on-one research assistance!

Can't find articles?

Can't find research articles to answer your PICO(T) question?
Think about the topic behind the question, and ask yourself:
Why not?
  1. If no researcher has done a research study about your topic, then there are no articles to find. You can't find it if it doesn't exist!
  2. If initial searches find articles, but result lists disappear when you add date limiters, it's likely there is no CURRENT research about your topic. Like many other things, research is trendy. Your topic might have been well researched several years ago, but it's not "hot" in the current literature.
  3. Is the outcome measurable?
    • Is it possible to measure it? How? Using what indicator / instrument / measurement?
    • Is it reasonable to measure it? Would it take years/decades to accumulate the data? Is the population accessible/available to researchers?
    • Is the outcome common knowledge? Topic examples: Does breast feeding improve immune system development? Does hand washing decrease the spread of infectious disease?
    • Would a researcher have ethical issues to consider in order to explore this topic? In other words, are you trying to find research that tests an intervention that could endanger participants in a study? If so, it's unlikely such research exists!

What now?
  • If your question isn't answerable, it can usually be adjusted. Use the articles you HAVE found to help you craft an answerable PICO(T) question.
  • Don't abandon all the work you've done! If you're finding articles but they aren't the ones you hoped to find, review your results before making a dramatic topic change. You can probably formulate a new PICO(T) question based on studies you have already found.
  • Talk with your instructor to brainstorm ideas about how you can use your findings to adjust your question so it is answerable in the literature.