Defining the research question and developing a protocol are the essential first step in conducting systematic review. A well-formulated question will guide many aspects of the review process, including determining eligibility criteria, searching for studies, collecting data from included studies, structuring the syntheses, and presenting findings.
Question formation framework helps structure research questions. The PICO framework is commonly used to develop focused questions in academic and clinical settings. Other frameworks such as SPICE and SPIDER also serve the same purpose. Apart from structuring research questions, these frameworks also help:
The PICO framework is widely used to develop focused clinical questions for quantitative systematic reviews.
What does PICO stand for?
|P||Patients or Populations or Problems||What is the patient's problem? What are the patient demographics such as age, gender and ethnicity?|
|I||Intervention||What type of intervention is being considered?|
|C||Comparison or Control||
Is there a comparison treatment to be considered? It can be another medication, another form of treatment, or no other treatment to compare.
|O||Outcome||What is the desired effect or outcome from the intervention or treatment?|
SPICE can be used for both qualitative and quantitative studies with a focus on evaluating the outcomes of a service, a project, or an intervention.
What does SPICE stand for?
|S||Setting||Where is the study being conducted (where)?|
Who are the participants of the study (for whom)?
|I||Intervention||What is the intervention being studied (what)?|
|C||Comparison||Compared with what other actions or outcomes (compared with what)?|
What is the result? How is it being measured (with what result)?
SPIDER is useful for qualitative or mixed methods research focusing on "samples" rather than populations.
What does SPIDER stand for?
|Who is the group of people being studied?|
Phenomenon of interest
What are the reasons for the behavior and decisions?
|How has the research been collected (e.g., interview, survey)?|
|What is the outcome being impacted?|
What is the type of research (qualitative or mixed methods)?
Cooke, A., Smith, D., & Booth, A. (2012). Beyond PICO: The SPIDER tool for qualitative evidence synthesis. Qualitative Health Research, 22(10), 1435-1443.
This video shows the way to turn a PICO question into a search in 5 steps.
Step 1: Identify the main elements of the question
Step 2: Translate the question into the PICO framework
Step 3: Identify primary search terms from the PICO
Step 4: Think about the synonyms for the search terms
Step 5: Link up the synonyms and the PICO terms