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NS 696 Individual Project

Tools to Help Develop Your Research Question

Well-Built Clinical Queries

"Background" Questions
Depending on your experience, you may first need to ask background questions to acquire general knowledge about a condition or thing. These commonly take the form of a question: who, what, where, when, how, why and a verb. Example: What causes SARS?

"Foreground" Questions use PICOS to seek specific knowledge (causal or predictive) to assist in clinical decisions or actions. PICOS was developed by faculty at McMaster University.

PICO [S, T] - health interventions, diagnosis, prognosis

P Patient or Population For which group do you need information? 
I Intervention Surgery, teaching, medication, etc.
C Comparison What is the evidence that the intervention
produces different results than a different
or no intervention?
O Outcome What is the effect of the intervention?
S Setting or Study type Where is the research done (e.g.,
ambulatory setting) or type of study (e.g., RCT)?
T Time What are the time factors?

PICOS worksheet


SPIDER - qualitative evidence synthesis or for mixed-methods research

S Sample  
P I Phenomenon of Interest
D Design
E Evaluation
R Research type

Cooke, A., Smith, D. & Booth, A (2012).  Beyond PICO: the SPIDER tool for qualitative evidence synthesis.  Qualitative Health Research, 22(1435).  doi: 10.1177/1049732312452938)]  Comparison with PICO on page 1438.


ECLIPS(E) - health service management searches

E Expectation How will the information be used?
C Client group Who needs this?
L Location Where will it be used?
I Impact Service change? What would a successful outcome look like?  How is it being measured?
P Professionals Who provides/ikmproves the service?
S Service Which service/unit needs this change/information?  Outpatient, ICU?

Wildrige, V.  How CLIP became ECLIPSE: a mnemonic to assist in searching for health policy/management information.  HILJ 2002; 19(2):113-5

Yale MeSH Analyzer

The Yale MeSH Analyzer's primary goal is to help find controlled vocabularies (subject headings) to enhance the quality of articles retrieved.  The tool generates a grid that can be customized.  There is a browser bookmarklet for direct use with PubMed.  This tool extracts selected records from a PubMed search and sends them to the analyzer.  Use the Help page for the website to install this tool in your favorite browser. 

Sample Grid