Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Systematic Reviews: Developing a research question


hand with medicine, apple with measuring tape, kid with laptop

develop the question

Developing a question


Using PICO can help you define and narrow your research question so that it is specific.

P  - Patient, population, or problem

I   - Intervention

C - Comparison or Control

O - Outcome

Think about whether your question is relevant to practitioners, and whether the answer will help people (doctors, patients, nurses) make better informed health care decisions.

You can find out more about properly formulated questions through CEBM and Gumberg.

Before beginning, make sure your research is original.

has the review been done before

 has this review been done?

Before beginning, make sure a review has not already addressed your question.

Do a thorough search in the following databases; you can also consult your librarian for guidance. Make sure you check for both published reviews and registered protocols (to see if a review is in progress).

â–ºNote when using PubMed to search for systematic reviews, you can filter your search. The National Library of Medicine provides more details; you can also contact your librarian for assistance.

The Joanna Briggs Institute should also be searched for reviews that have been done or are in process. Gumberg does not currently provide access; contact your librarian for assistance.