UTS Library

Evidence-Based Practice Resources: PICO Framework

In this guide:

If you are working through your own example, you can start using our 2018 PICO table or if you need more help using the databases, download this printable interactive PDF, or visit our youtube playlist.

One of the best and most efficient ways to find evidence-based practice resources is by using the PICO framework. PICO helps you to create a researchable question; it is most suitable for clinical queries and looking for quantitative research.

Breaking down a scenario into these areas allows you to conduct a clear and structured search in the health databases to find the most relevant evidence.

PICO stands for:

  • Population: the patient or problem
  • Intervention: what you plan to do such as a specific test, treatment or therapy.
  • Comparison: alternative treatment or method
  • Outcome: relevant outcomes of your intervention


In our example scenario; 5-year-old Sam suffers from night-time bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis and his parents dont want him to take extra medications which in the conventional therapy. If we broke that down using PICO it would look something like this:

  • P = patient is 'child' and 'bedwetting' is the problem.
  • I = intervention you want to investigate is ‘bed wetting alarm’.
  • C = compare the intervention against standard medication such as desmopressin.
  • O = No bed wetting’ or becoming dry is the desired outcome.

Once you have broken down your question, identify possible keywords and MeSH terms from your scenario.

Keywords are words or concepts that describe your scenario.To identify your keywords, start by looking in your textbooks, subject readings or search Google to find some examples. It can be helpful to breakdown your scenario into a table, this will help you later on when searching.

For more relevant results, we also recommend including MeSH terms in your search. MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings. MeSH are useful for grouping topics either, especially where they might be described in more than one way. For example, if one article uses the term bedwetting while another uses enuresis, they can both be found if you use 'Enuresis' as a MeSH search. MeSH make it easier to find all the relevant information about a subject. You can search for MeSH terms using this browser.


So if we combined our keywords, MeSH using PICO, our table would look something like this:





Nocturnal Enuresis (MeSH)


Bed wetting alarm (Keyword)

Deamino Arginine Vasopressin (MeSH)

No bed wetting (not to be entered)

Enuresis (MeSH)

Bedwetting alarm (keyword)



Urinary Incontinence (MeSH)

Buzzer alarm (keyword)



Urinary Incontinence (keyword)

Enuresis alarm (keyword)



Bedwetting (keyword)

Behavior therapy (MeSH)



Bed wetting (keyword)

Behaviour therapy (keyword)