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PPE 310 Health Literacy: Creating Healthy and Active Schools

What is PICO?

P = Population (participants, problem, process, point of view, primary event)


I =  Intervention (therapy, treatment, causes or etiology, improvement, interpretation, impact)


C = Comparison (Opposing arguments)


O = Outcome (measurement)

PICO Tutorial
Focus is on the health sciences but the process is the same for all subject areas.

Role of the 5 Ws

Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)


Background reading allows the researcher to fill in most of the basic questions: Who, What, When and Where

That leaves Why and How

Researchers in most fields are looking for one of two things:

  • A cause for a problem (Why) or
  • a solution to a problem (How).

The Why or the How then becomes the I element of the PICO formula.

The P element of the PICO formula is typically the Who or the What

Asking a Searchable Question

Using PICO Question in Education


Background | Five Ws

Do high stakes tests improve high school graduation rates? (This is a HOW question).

The P element is a Problem and the I element is a suggested Intervention


Foreground | PICO

In high school graduation rates (P), do high stakes tests (I) compared to no-stakes tests (C) improve the rates? (O)

Searching the Answerable Question

Search in ERIC:

 Search 1: 

high school graduation rates AND high stakes tests

Search 2:

All(high school graduation rates) AND ti (high stakes tests)

Hours and Locations