Information Literacy Interactive Tutorial

PICO process

When formulating search questions, the PICO process, which was originally formulated for the health services sector, can be helpful.

PICO stands for:

  • Population - who is the question about?
  • Intervention - which intervention/approach is involved?
  • Comparison - what do you want to compare?
  • Outcome - what is the desired outcome?

Example scenario

You are working with a 21-year old woman with mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Her GP has suggested drug therapy but she is reluctant and is interested in trying cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as an alternative. She asks you which therapy is more effective in treating depression and anxiety.

In this case, you are interested in depression and anxiety in young women, however you are looking to compare two treatments - drug therapy and CBT.

Possible search questions:

  • What are effective treatments for women with depression and anxiety?
  • Is drug therapy or CBT effective at treating depression and anxiety in women?

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