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Systematic reviews, scoping reviews and other evidence syntheses

Overview of evidence synthesis reviews and relevant strategies, tools and resources.

Developing a research question

Research questions for systematic reviews must:

  • have a clearly defined focus
  • be "operationalizeable" i.e. easily translated into a strategy for searching the literature
  • informed by deep knowledge of the subject area
  • supported by background evidence
  • have not been answered by an existing, current systematic review

Research question frameworks

PICO Framework

  • PICO is commonly used to frame quantitative evidence synthesis research questions and facilitate literature searching
  • Elements:
    • P - Patient, Problem or Population
    • I - Intervention
    • C - Comparison or Control
    • O - Outcome

When forming your PICO question consider:

  • P - demographic factors of your patient/population such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.
  • C - not all PICO questions include a comparator
  • O - outcomes should be measurable and aligned with clinical indicators, quality of life, etc.
  • Whether your question focuses on:
    • therapy
    • prevention
    • diagnosis
    • prognosis
    • etiology
  • Examples of PICO by question domain:

Examples of PICO questions


Reference: Systematic Reviews in Health by Murray Turner at University of Canberra

PS Model

  • Used for qualitative research questions
  • Focus on patient/population experiences and situations
  • P - Patient/Population
  • S - Situation
    • Example: How do caregiver-spouses of Alzheimer patients (P) experience placing their spouses in a nursing home (S)?

Reference: Nursing: Getting Started by McMaster Health Sciences Library