Addressing student problems in formulating research questions with PICO

In Time to re-evaluate how we teach information literacy: Applying PICO in library instruction, authors Ellen Welty, Sheila Hofstetter, and Stephanie Schulte make a compelling case for rethinking the basics of information literacy education.  Citing the data from Project Information Literacy, which reports that students don’t have nearly as much trouble finding information as they do creating a research question for their assignment, the authors make a compelling argument for shifting our focus to helping students create the question.

The method they suggest is the well-established PICO model used and taught almost universally by medical clinicians and medical librarians.  PICO — which stands for Population, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome — can be adapted to most disciplines and can help students narrow down their question and populate key concepts.

The PICO model is currently used by librarians in our VIC170 course, along with worksheets to help students create the PICO model on their own.

Do you use PICO in any of your library instruction sessions?