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One template for formulating a clinical question is the PICO model developed by WS Richardson. According to Richardson (1995) the question should be phrased to facilitate searching for a precise answer. To achieve these aims it has been proposed that the question must be complete and composed of all 4 parts of its anatomy:
the patient, problem, or population being addressed
How would you describe a group of patients similar to yours? May include the primary problem, disease, or co-existing conditions, gender, age or race.
the intervention or exposure being considered
What is the intervention or treatment being considered for this patient or problem? This may be a treatment, therapy, or product/protocol recommendation.
the comparison intervention or exposure, if relevant
What is the main alternative to compare with the intervention? Are you trying to decide between two drugs, a drug and no medication or placebo, or two diagnostic tests? Your clinical question may not always have a specific comparison.
the clinical outcome of interest
What can you hope to accomplish, measure, improve or affect? What are you trying to do for the patient? Relieve or eliminate the symptoms? Reduce the number of adverse events? Improve function or test scores?
Additional questions to ask
What type of question are you asking?- Diagnosis, Etiology/harm, Therapy, Prognosis, Prevention
What type of study do you want to find?-What would be the best study design/methodology?
Additional questions to ask concerning study designs
In addition to PICO, there are two additional questions that are helpful: 1) What type of question are you asking? Determining this will help you answer 2) What type of study do you want to find? Use the chart below to guide you.