DDS 6918: Evidence Based Dentistry

PubMed search

Frame Your Research Topic

The Well-Built Clinical Question


The first part of any research is identifying the question you want to answer. This is very important because the more you understand your question the more likely you are to obtain relevant results. The process of formulating a good search question is known in evidence-based health care as “the well-built clinical question.” One way of building your search question starts with the patient and is known as PICO(T), which stands for:

  • P - Patient or Population or Problem/Disease

Who or what is the question about? This may include the primary problem, disease, or circumstances. 

  • I - Intervention, Exposure or Prognostic Factor

What main intervention/treatment are you considering? What factor may influence the prognosis of the patient, such as age or comorbidities? What was the patient exposed to?

  • C - Comparison(s) or Control

What alternative intervention are you considering, if any? For example, you might be comparing the efficacy of two medications or the accuracy of two diagnostic tests. Your clinical question does not have to always have a specific comparison.

  • O - Outcome(s)

What are you trying to accomplish or measure? What are you trying to do for the patient or problem? Examples might include managing a disease, alleviating symptoms, preventing a disease, etc.

  • T - Timeframe (optional)

What's the amount of time that you'll be observing the patient or problem. For example, improving rates of hospital-acquired infections over the course of a year.

Finding the Evidence

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2023 10:21 AM