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Use PICO to Develop a Clinical Research Question for Your Thesis

For medical students, the process of research study is more challenging than the rest. Not only do they have to follow the same extensive process that every investigative examination requires but they also have to make sure that their research study does not become obsolete by the time it is completed as innovative developments in the medical field are quite frequent.

Since the most important step in any research is development of the research question, let’s see how you can formulate it for a medical research.

The best and most effective way to develop a clinical research question is through Pico research question.

Pico is the most effective strategy for developing research questions for EBM (evidence based medicine). This process tries to preview the effectiveness of a certain medical theory or practice, compares it with other alternatives and then tries to assume the outcome that should be expected. Through the step by step process of PICO, you can develop a

medical research question

easily and effectively.

What does PICO mean?

  • P is for Patient Population:
    Here you mainly try to gather data regarding the sample population that you will study. You will try to gather the basic information about the patient. You can do so by answering the following questions:
    1. How would you describe the patient?
    2. What are the main characteristics of the patient?
      1. The main problem that he is facing?
      2. What are the gender, age and location of the patient?
      3. What is the health or disease status of the patient?
    3. Would you describe patients in similar condition in the same way?

For Example:

50 year old woman with arthritis

  • I for Intervention:
    Here, you will answer what you plan to do with the patient’s disease?
    1. What type medicines, treatments or exposures are you considering for the patient?
    2. What will you prescribe to the patient? Some drug?
    3. What was the patient exposed to?

For Example:

The 50 year old arthritis patient will be subjected to a drug named COX-2 Inhibitor.

  • C is for Comparative Alternatives:
    Here, you will try to describe what are the main alternatives available to test the intervention?
    1. What different types of treatments are available?
    2. Is there a choice between two drugs for the disease?

For Example:

The alternatives for the disease were physiological massages.

  • O is for Outcome:
    Here, you will try to answer, what do you wish to achieve, expect, measure or improve through the alternative that you have selected?
    1. What is the expected result of the drug or operation that the patient was subjected to?
    2. What are the relevant outcomes through this?

For Example:

Reduction in pain and inflammation


Haven’t found your research topic yet?

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  • An explanation why we choose this topic?
  • 2-3 research questions
  • Key literature resources identification
  • Raw sample size definition
  • Explanation of the methodology for collecting the data

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