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Systematic Reviews and Evidence Syntheses: Formulate a question

How to do and 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 should choose the appropriate tool for your type of question.

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.

Places where you can register your protocol:

Further Reading