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Systematic Reviews

Question Formation Framework: PICO

Systematic Reviews seek to answer a specific research question. There are question formation frameworks to help you formulate a focused research question.

PICO is the most common question formation framework for systematic reviews.

PICO works well for clinical and quantitative research topics (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, etiology/harm, and prevention questions)

PICO questions identify 3-4 concepts: patient/population/problem, intervention, comparison (optional), and outcome.

PICO Definition Example
Patient/Population/Problem Who is my question focused on? Infants diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
Intervention What is the proposed new intervention? Early enteral refeeding
Comparison (optional) What is the current or alternative state? Late enteral re-feeding
Outcome What is the measurable outcome being impacted? NEC recurrence

Research question: In infants diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), what is the effect of early enteral refeeding on NEC recurrence compared with late enteral refeeding?

Learn more about PICO, and how to frame questions other than therapy.

Question Formation Frameworks: Other Examples

 

Other frameworks that can help you formulate a focused research question include PEO, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE, among others.

The PEO question format is useful for qualitative research topics.

PEO questions identify three concepts: population, exposure, and outcome.

PEO Definition Example
Population Who is my question focused on? mothers
Exposure What is the issue I'm interested in? postnatal depression
Outcome What, in relation to the issue, do I want to examine? daily living experiences

Research question: What are the daily living experiences of mothers with postnatal depression?

 

Other frameworks that can help you formulate a focused research question include PEO, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE, among others.

The SPIDER question format is useful for qualitative or mixed methods research topics focusing on "samples" rather than populations.

SPIDER questions identify five concepts: sample, phenomenon of interest, design, evaluation, and research type.

SPIDER Definition Example
Sample Who is the group of people being studied? young parents
Phenomenon of Interest What are the reasons for behavior and decisions? attendance at antenatal education classes
Design How has the research been collected (e.g., interview, survey)? interviews
Evaluation What is the outcome being impacted? experiences
Research Type  What type of research (qualitative or mixed methods)? qualitative studies

Research question: What are the experiences of young parents in attendance at antenatal education classes?

 

Other frameworks that can help you formulate a focused research question include PEO, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE, among others.

The SPICE question format is useful for qualitative research topics evaluating the outcomes of a service, project or intervention.

SPICE questions identify five concepts: setting, perspective, intervention/exposure/interest, comparison, and evaluation.

SPICE Definition Example
Setting Setting is the context for the question (where?) South Carolina
Perspective Perspective is the users, potential users, or stakeholders of the service (for whom?) teenagers
Intervention/Interest/Exposure Intervention is the action taken for the users, potential users, or stakeholders (what?) provision of Quit Kits to support smoking cessation
Comparison Comparison is the alternative actions or outcomes (compared to what? what else?) no support or "cold turkey"
Evaluation Evaluation is the result or measurement that will determine the success of the intervention (what result? how well?) number of successful attempts to give up smoking with Quit Kits compared to number of successful attempts with no support

Research question: For teenagers in South Carolina, what is the effect of provision of Quit Kits to support smoking cessation on number of successful attempts to give up smoking compared to no support ("cold turkey")?

 

Other frameworks that can help you formulate a focused research question include PEO, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE, among others.

The ECLIPSE question format is useful for qualitative research topics investigating the outcomes of a policy or service.

ECLIPSE questions identify six concepts: expectation, client group, location, impact, professionals, and service.

ECLIPSE Definition Example
Expectation What are you looking to improve/change? What is the information going to be used for? to increase access to wireless internet in the hospital
Client Group Who is the service/policy aimed at? patients and families
Location Where is the service/policy located? hospitals
Impact  What is the change in service/policy that the researcher is investigating? clients have easy access to free internet
Professionals Who is involved in providing/improving the service/policy? IT, hospital administration
Service What kind of service/policy is this? What service/policy is seeking the information? provision of free wireless internet to patients

Research question: How can I increase access to wireless internet for hospital patients?