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Systematic Reviews and Evidence Syntheses: Formulate a question

How to do a systematic review. How to find systematic reviews.

Formulate your question

Developing a protocol (plan) for a systematic review outlines the individual processes that need to be undertaken within the review. The first part of this process is formulating a question.

There are several available frameworks for developing including:

  • PICO = Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome
  • PECO = Population, Exposure, Comparison, Outcome
  • PIRT = Population, Index Test, Reference Test, Target Condition
  • SPIDER = Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research Type

You would choose the appropriate tool for your type of question, in the examples given here – intervention, risk, diagnostic and experiential/qualitative questions.

Further Reading

Register your protocol

Once you've formulated your question, you will need to start developing a protocol to guide the conduct of your review. This will cover inclusion/exclusion criteria, screening methods, risk of bias and data analysis.

It is good practice to prospectively register your protocol and in many cases a requirement for future publication of the review.

Where to register your protocol;

Further Reading