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Applied Evidence Based Medicine


  • Understand what PICO stands for and how it can be used to develop an answerable clinical question
  • Learn how PICO can be adapted to various question types
  • Become aware of databases that can help you find answers to your clinical question

Using PICO to Develop an Answerable Clinical Question

Framing your clinical question appropriately is an important precursor to a good search. PICO is a framework that can be used to make important, searchable concepts easily identifiable and help you translate your research question into an answerable clinical question.


The PICO framework can be used to break down various types of questions into their component parts:

Resources to Help Answer Your Clinical Question


  • PubMed: PubMed is a database from the US National Library of Medicine covering medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, molecular biology, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. You should access it through the UCalgary library website to ensure that you avoid paywalls and can link through to the university's journal subscriptions. 
  • TRIP Medical Database: This is a free evidence-based literature search tool that is an alternative to PubMed for all-purpose searching. Content from PubMed is typically added every two weeks while content added manually (mostly secondary evidence) is added once per month. TRIP attempts to display the most relevant results first. You can limit your results to the "top of the pyramid" synopses and there is also a PICO search tool.
  • ACCESSSS: This website provides one-stop access to pre-appraised evidence to address this key question: "What is the current best evidence available to support clinical decisions?" It conducts searches simultaneously in several evidence-based information services and provides email alerts to newly published evidence in the user’s chosen area(s) of training/interest. Searching ACCESSSS yields content that is hierarchically organized. Always look first at the content available at the highest level of the hierarchy, as it is most likely to be useful for clinical purposes.

Quick Answer Clinical Tools

Evidence Synopses