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Applied Evidence Based Medicine


  • Understand how to use PICO to formulate a therapy question
  • Learn how to use Pubmed Clinical Queries to limit to the type of studies you're looking for
  • Become familiar with resources for understanding therapy studies

PICO for Therapy Questions

When using PICO to frame a therapy question, the P is the patient or disease; the I is the drug or specific procedural intervention; the is the comparison intervention (or no treatment); and the O is the outcome of interest, such as management of the disease or condition.

Here are a couple of examples of how you would form an answerable therapy question using PICO:


Scenario 1: Your preceptor wants you to undertake a literature search for her. She's interested in whether acetaminophen is better than ibuprofen at reducing fever in young children. 

P: young children

I: acetaminophen

C: ibuprofen

O: reduced fever

Clinical Question: Is acetaminophen more effective than ibuprofen at reducing fever in young children?


Scenario 2: You're a family physician caring for an elderly patient with dementia. You are currently using donepezil to treat her cognitive and behavioural symptoms, but her son asks you if there are other non-medicinal treatments to help manage his mother's agitation. He has heard that music therapy has positive effects on patients with his mother's condition. 

P: elderly woman with dementia

I: music therapy

C: other non-medicinal treatments

O: reduced agitation

Clinical Question: Can music therapy or other non-medicinal treatments be used to reduce agitation in elderly patients with dementia?

Using PubMed Clinical Queries to Answer a Therapy Question

Key Points to Remember about PubMed:

  • Clinical Queries allows for more focused searching that brings back more relevant results than the main PubMed search
  • Make sure you access PubMed through the UCalgary library website, or bookmark our special PubMed link to ensure you get links to our e-journals with your search results
  • Use these search tips to improve the quality of your search (for a further explanation of these search tips, see UCalgary Libraries' video suite Building Blocks for Library Research):

Resources for Understanding Therapy Studies