Frame Your Research Topic
The Well-Built Clinical Question
The first part of any research is identifying the question you want to answer. This is very important because the more you understand your question the more likely you are to obtain relevant results. The process of formulating a good search question is known in evidence-based health care as “the well-built clinical question.” One way of building your search question starts with the patient and is known as PICO(T), which stands for:
P - Patient or Population or Problem/Disease
Who or what is the question about? This may include the primary problem, disease, or circumstances.
I - Intervention, Exposure or Prognostic Factor
What main intervention/treatment are you considering? What factor may influence the prognosis of the patient, such as age or comorbidities? What was the patient exposed to?
C - Comparison(s) or Control
What alternative intervention are you considering, if any? For example, you might be comparing the efficacy of two medications or the accuracy of two diagnostic tests. Your clinical question does not have to always have a specific comparison.
O - Outcome(s)
What are you trying to accomplish or measure? What are you trying to do for the patient or problem? Examples might include managing a disease, alleviating symptoms, preventing a disease, etc.
T - Timeframe (optional)
What's the amount of time that you'll be observing the patient or problem. For example, improving rates of hospital-acquired infections over the course of a year.
- Understanding Research Study DesignsIn order to find the best possible evidence, it helps to understand the basic designs of research studies. The following basic definitions and examples of clinical research designs follow the “levels of evidence.”
Finding the Evidence
- PubMedSearches MEDLINE, which is the primary source of journal articles for the health sciences (fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, public health, health care systems, and basic sciences). Coverage is from the 1940s to the present. View this tutorial to learn how to go from a general idea to a very precise set of results of journal articles and scholarly materials.
- ScopusSearch for information from scientific journals, books and conference proceedings. Covers the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities.
- MICROMEDEXProvides access to drug information resources, including drug identification, packaging information, interaction and contraindication information, drug prices, international formulations, occupational safety sheets, safety in pregnancy, and more.
- DynaMedAn evidence-based clinical decision support tool. Contains over 3,000 topic summaries covering diseases, disorders, diagnostics, and drugs with extensive references to journals and practice guidelines.