Skip to Main Content

DNP Program: Evidence-Based Practice Resources: Ask

About this page

Question development is an integral part of an effective search. On this page, you'll find information on the different types of questions you might ask, along with templates and tools for question formation.

A good question...

  • Focuses your information needs
  • Identifies key search concepts
  • Points you in the direction of potential resources

Background Questions

Background Questions

These questions are general in nature and provide foundational information on a single concept.  Background questions cover:

  • Terminology
  • General Pathology
  • Patient Education Resources
  • General Drug Information
  • Examination/Assessment Procedures


What is the pathology of asthma?

What drugs are used to treat hypertension?

How do I perform a psychological assessment?

What education resources exist for patients with gestational diabetes?

How is hepititis B diagnosed?

What does a normal heartbeat sound like?

Foreground Questions

These questions bring together multiple concepts related to a specific clinical situation or research topic.  They are typically divided into two categories:

  • Qualitative Questions aim to discover meaning or gain an understanding of a phenomena.  They ask about an individual's or population's experience of certain situations or circumstances
  • Quantitative Questions aim to discover cause and effect relationships by comparing two or more individuals or groups based on differing outcomes associated with exposures or interventions.

Building an effective foreground question can be challenging.  The following models will help:

Qualitative Questions: The PS Model

P - Patient/Population

S- Situation

How do/does ___[P]____ experience _____[S]_____?

Ex. How do caregiver-spouses of Alzheimer patients experience placing their spouse in a nursing home?

Quantitative Questions: The PICO(T) Model

About PICO(T)

Gallagher Ford, L., & Melnyk, B.M. (2019) The underappreciated and misunderstood PICOT question: A critical step in the EBP process. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 16(6), 422-423.


PICO(T) Templates



In ___[P]___,  do/does ___[I]___ result in ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ over ___[T]____?

E.g.) In nursing home residents with osteoporosis, do hip protectors result in fewer injuries from slips, trips, and falls when compared with standard osteoporosis drug therapy over the course of their stay?



Are ___[P]___  with  ___[I]___  over ____[T]____ more likely to ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ ?

E.g.) Are female non-smokers with daily exposure to second-hand smoke over a period of ten years or greater more likely to develop breast cancer when compared with female non-smokers without daily exposure to second-hand smoke?



Is/are ___[I]___ performed on ___[P]___   more effective than ___[C]___  over ___[T]____in ___[O]____?

E.g.) Are self-reporting interviews and parent reports performed on children aged 5-10 more effective than parent reports alone over a four-week consultation process in diagnosing depression?



In ___[P]___,  do/does ___[I]___ result in ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ over ___[T]____?

E.g.) In emergency room visitors, do hand sanitizing stations result in fewer in-hospital infections when compared with no hand sanitizing stations over a year-long pilot period?



Do/does ___[I]___ performed on ___[P]___   lead to  ___[O]___  over ___[T]____compared with ___[C]____?

E.g.) Do regular text message reminders performed on patients recently diagnosed with diabetes lead to a lower occurrence of forgotten insulin doses over the first six months of treatment compared with no reminders?

PICO(T) - Challenges and Alternatives


Cooke, A., Smith, D., & Booth, A. (2012). Beyond PICO: The SPIDER tool for qualitative evidence synthesis. Qualitative Health Research22(10), 1435–1443.


Cullen, L., Hanrahan, K., Tucker, S., Edmonds, S. W., & Laures, E. (2023). The problem with the PICO question: Shiny object syndrome and the PURPOSE statement solution. Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing38(3), 516–518.


Kloda, L. A., Boruff, J. T., & Soares Cavalcante, A. (2020). A comparison of patient, intervention, comparison, outcome (PICO) to a new, alternative clinical question framework for search skills, search results, and self-efficacy: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the Medical Library Association108(2), 185–194.


Schiavenato, M., & Chu, F. (2021). PICO: What it is and what it is not. Nurse Education in Practice56, 103194.


Additional Frameworks

PIE (Population, Intervention, Effect / Outcome)

PEO (Population/Problem, Exposure, Outcomes/Themes)

PURPOSE (Population, Users, Responsible team, Problem, Outcomes, Setting, Effort)

FINER (Feasibility, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, Relevant)

SPICE (Setting, Perspective, Intervention, Comparison, Evaluation)

SPIDER (Sample, Phenomena of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research type)

More Help

Ask Us

JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.

Ask your librarian!

Profile Photo
Ximena Chrisagis
JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.
Dunbar Library 120
(937) 775-3516


The content on this page is reused from Evidence-Based Practice Resources guide from the McMaster University Health Sciences Library under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Article citations for further reading were added as was one additional framework.

Creative Commons License