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CDIS 652: Research & Experimental Design: Frame Your Question

Framing the Clinical Question

"The most difficult aspect of framing appropriate clinical questions is determining the level of specificity of what goes into each of these categories. To some, it is difficult because it is an art, rather than a science, and usually requires a fair amount of trial and error before the question is in its final form." -- ASHA: Framing the Clinical Question


Clinical questions require specific components. A common template used to formulate clinical questions is PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome). Alternative templates might consider the environments and stakeholders. (Learn more about PESICO.)

PICO Template Description Example*
P Population, patient, problem. What characterizes this particular population? "English and Mandarin bilingual Singaporean speakers"
I Intervention. Describe the action or exposure that causes an anticipated change. "speech re-structuring intensive program (IP) delivered in English only"
C Comparison. What alternative is this being compared against? outcomes compared against "monolingual English-speaking adults"
O Outcome. What is the result? "stuttering reductions can be achieved in two languages following treatment in one language only"

*This example was taken from Lim, V. P. C., Lincoln, M., Onslow, M., & Chan, Y. H. (2015). English-only treatment of bilingual speakers who stutter: Generalization of treatment effects from english to mandarin. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17(5), 431-440.

Using PICO to frame a sample, clinical question, we might ask, "When speech restructuring IP is delivered only in English to bilingual English and Mandarin speakers, is stuttering reduced in one or both languages?"