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NU 631: Scientific Inquiry & Evidence for Clinical Practice

This guide is designed with NU403 and NU631 in mind, but is a great resource for anyone doing evidence-based practice nursing research.


PICOT is an acronym used to help nurses develop a well constructed research question.


P:  Patient, Problem or Population

What are the characteristics of the patients or population?

I:   Intervention

What intervention are you considering (medical, surgical, preventative)?

C:  Comparison

What is the alternative being considered, if any?

O:  Outcome

What is the estimated clinical outcome?

T:  Time

What is the time period?

Background/Foreground Questions

Background questions are foundational questions about a clinical issue, for example, what is cancer cachexia (progressive body wasting), and what is its pathophysiology? Answers to such questions are typically found in textbooks.

Foreground questions, by contrast, are those that can be answered based on current best research evidence on diagnosing, assessing or treating patients, or on understanding the meaning or prognosis of their health problems.


Polit, D., & Beck, C.T. (2014) Essentials of nursing research: Appraising evidence for nursing practice (p. 29). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health /Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Evidence-Based Practice article

PICO VIdeo Tutorial

From Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford