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EXS290 Research Guide

This guide was created for students taking EXS290

What is PICO?

An essential part of evidence-based decision making involves asking a good question. A clinical or research question can generally be broken down into four components. 'PICO' is the acronym that identifies the four components of a good research question:





The PICO table on this page provides further explanation and examples for each of the four components.

The following links provide additional information and resources on PICO:

PICO Questions: A Tutorial - UW Libraries

PICO Questions - Ebling Library

Forming Focused Questions with PICO - UNC Health Sciences Library

PICO Explained


Who or What?

  • Participants or prinicipal person or thing
  • Problem or predicament
  • Population with a health/medical condition 

Example Population: Overweight College Students



  • Intervention
  • Treatment
  • Therapy
  • Tests

Example Intervention: HIIT plus endurance training


What is the main alternative to the intervention?

  • Another intervention
  • Standard of care or operation

Example Comparison (alternative intervention): Endurance training


What are you trying to accomplish, measure or improve?

  • Measurement of comparisons
  • Relevant outcomes

Example Outcome: Changes in percent body fat