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Occupational Therapy

Searching for evidence: develop a well-formed clinical questions

To search for evidence based information, you first need to develop a well formed clinical question. It is recommended that you use the PICO concept to help you do this.

Pico stands for:

   Patient, Population or Problem
           What are the characteristics of the patient or population?
           What is the condition or disease you are interested in?

   Intervention or exposure
           What do you want to do with this patient (e.g. treat, diagnose, observe)?

           What is the alternative to the intervention (e.g. placebo, different drug, surgery)?

           What are the relevant outcomes (e.g. morbidity, death, complications)?

See an example in the second tab above.

Here is an example of a clinical question that outlines the PICO components.

How would you begin searching for this topic?  See the completed worksheet below.


SPIDER search tool (for qualitative questions)

SPIDER is an alternative system to PICO for defining a research question. For more information see

Cooke, A., Smith, D., & Booth, A. (2012). Beyond PICO: The SPIDER Tool for qualitative evidence synthesis. Qualitative Health Research, 22(10), 1435-1443.

S= Sample

P,I = Phenomenon of Interest

D = Design

E = Evaluation

R = Research Type

EXAMPLE from Cooke et al above:

Find individual studies - Library databases


Evidence-based practice and clinical resources