Since nursing is an evidence-based practice, most research follows the PICOT technique. This method is useful in developing answers to questions on clinical problems and healthcare. Picot question ideas involve the process of framing a relevant question, locating potential sources of information, assessing and evaluating them. Then repeat the process, as needed.
Brief Definition of PICOT Questions
Picot stands for:
- P– Population/ Problem/ Patient. It may refer to ethnicity, gender, individuals, or age concerning people with a certain disorder. Here you specify the demographics of the patients.
- I-Intervention/Indicator. It’s the variable of interest. It could be the prognostic factor, risk behavior, or exposure to a disease. You need to address the plans for treatment of the problem.
- C-Comparison/Control. It’s a comparison of the intervention with an alternative treatment. It could be Prognostic factor B, absence of risk factor, no disease, or placebo.
- O-Outcome. Here you highlight the desired outcome of the proposed treatment. That is, the results you expect to get after the intervention. It may include risk of disease, eliminating symptoms, the accuracy of diagnosis, and more.
- T– Time. It refers to the length of the period of observation of participants or time taken for the intervention to achieve a specified outcome.
This format enables the researcher to develop questions that are researchable and answerable. The primary purpose of the PICOT formula is to help you determine whether a current practice or policy is ideal when providing care to a specific patient population.
Formulating the PICOT question ideas
Focus on the I (Intervention)
The picot questions are what informs the development of the research question. When you include the Intervention as part of your research strategy, it will help you in finding relevant studies.
Therefore, the results will address the concept of Abstract or Title.
Include P (Population/ Patient/ Problem)
It helps to broaden your search results. Also, these two form the major elements of the research question. During the search process, remember to translate terms in the natural language into subject descriptors.
Revise your terms if the search is not relevant. It applies to any component that you add from the PICOT format.
Use appropriate databases
Premier databases for research in nursing are CINAHL and PubMed/Medicine. They are useful in scoping relevant results for questions on health sciences. You can access systematic reviews from the Joanna Briggs Institute and the Cochrane Library.
For specialty databases, ERIC and PsycINFO may prove useful.
Add other PICOT components
It will help you narrow down your research question. That is, by adding other elements to the search, e.g., Comparison, Outcome, Time/ Type of study.
For a more focused and relevant retrieval when using the databases and train yourself to use their search filters such as controlled vocabulary, Boolean logic, and limiters. The latter includes the type of publication and ages.
Evaluating the Search Results using PICO
During the search, you may come across studies that do/ do not entirely match with all the factors of your PICO question. Read through the abstract of the articles to determine their relevance.
Select the relevant studies from the search. Then, assess whether you need to adjust your search. Look through the references of the selected articles. It may lead you to additional sources, too.
Once through, begin the process of appraising. Remember, PICOT questions aim to answer a specific research question.