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Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy

Searchable Clinical Questions

It is important to formulate a specific question in order to generate an effective search.  PICOTT is a mnemonic used to describe the four elements of a searchable clinical question.


You are working in an out-patient clinic.  Your first patient is a 56-year old woman suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. She is experiencing numbness and swelling in her fingers and would like to know if massage therapy can help to alleviate her symptoms.  What evidence can you find regarding the efficacy of massage therapy to treat carpal tunnel syndrome?


Use PICOTT to create a searchable question...


What is the efficacy of massage therapy for treating carpal tunnel syndrome?

We can use these terms to begin our search: carpal tunnel syndrome AND massage therapy.

See the resources below for more information and examples of the different types of clinical questions and research studies, or continue on to Step 2: Accessing/acquiring information.

Clinical Questions Relevant to Occupational Therapy

Click on the link below for a sample of the types of questions relevant to OT and the types of studies (hierarchies of evidence) that provide answers to those questions:

Source:  Bennett, Sally, and John W. Bennett. "The process of evidence‐based practice in occupational therapy: Informing clinical decisions." Australian Occupational Therapy Journal 47.4 (2000): 171-180.

Description of Types of Studies

Type of Study                                                



As you move up the pyramid the study designs are more rigorous and allow for less bias or systematic error that may distract you from the truth.  For a more detailed description on the types of studies, click on the link below: Types of Studies - Description.

Source:  Duke Medical Library Introduction to Evidence-Based Practice Tutorial