Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Using a framework to structure your question
Frameworks help researchers structure a research question and clarify search concepts. There are many different frameworks depending on the type of question. For clinical questions, the most well-known is PICO. Sometimes your question may not fit perfectly into a framework. You can use part of a framework if necessary.
- Effectiveness of a treatment or intervention: PICO
- Prognostic: PFO
- Prevalence/Incidence: CoCoPop
- Cost/benefit analysis: PICOC, CLIP, ECLIPS(E)
- For qualitative questions: PICo, PEO, SPICE, SPIDER
More details about alternative frameworks are available here.
(for questions covering the effectiveness of an intervention, treatment etc.)
Patient, Population or Problem - who is the patient and/or what is the problem?
Intervention - what intervention is being considered?
Comparison - what intervention is this being compared with (a comparison is not always necessary)
Outcomes - what do you hope to accomplish, improve or affect?
Example: Alternatives to drugs for controlling headaches in children
- P - children
- I - alternatives to drugs (complementary therapies? changes to lifestyle?)
- C - drugs
- O - controlling headaches
Extensions to PICO
There are extensions to the PICO framework available which you can use if your topic has additional concepts:
- PICOS- here the S stands for study designs or setting (you can use this framework if you are only interested in examining specific designs of study or if the intervention is setting-specific like a hospital or nursing home)
- PICOT- here the T stands for timeframe (you can use this framework if your outcomes need to be measured in a certain amount of time e.g. 24 hours after surgery).