A well-built clinical question helps you begin searching for evidence-based answers. Good clinical questions can be built using the acronym PICO.
P - Patient, population or problem of interest
I - Intervention - therapy, diagnostic test, exposure, etc.
C - Comparison intervention (can be blank if no treatment is the comparison)
O - Outcome(s) of interest
For example, you may wish to answer, "What is the best way to prevent infection through hand-to-hand contact in the hospital - alcohol-based hand sanitizers or traditional hand washing?" "Best" is subjective - so restate your question in the PICO format to get a clinical answer.
Using PICO will help you translate your question from an initial broad topic or a specific individual patient's experience, to a concrete objective question that you can look to find clinical evidence to answer. Use words from your PICO question to build a search string. The search string is a list of words you will enter into the research databases to help you find articles.
Using the example above, our search string could be: "alcohol-based hand sanitizers" AND "hand washing" AND infection AND "systematic review"
The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine has tips and practice examples for formulating research questions.
A list of other Evidence-Based Modules and Tutorials.
Step 1: Convert the need for information into an answerable question (using PICO - see the "What is PICO?" box to the right)
Step 2: Find the best evidence (from Systematic Reviews) to answer that question (using Library and public domain databases from the web)
Tip: Systematic Reviews are articles that find, evaluate, and summarize several
research studies in one article.
Step 3: Critically appraise the evidence for its validity, impact, and applicability
Step 4: Integrate the evidence with your clinical expertise and the patient's unique biology, values and circumstances
Step 5: Evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the process