PICO and other tools for developing research questions and search concepts
A variety of tools are listed in alphabetical order that can be used to formulate your research question and identify possible search concepts for your literature search. As a rule of thumb pick the 2-4 concepts which are most simple to search for.*
BeHEMoTh - identification of theories for realist synthesis questions
Be Behaviour of interest
H Health context (the service, policy, programme or intervention)
E Exclusions (for reviewers to exclude non theories)
MoTh: Models or Theories
CLIP –Health service management questions
C Client – at whom is the service aimed?
L Location – where is the service sited?
I Improvement – what do you want to find out?
P Professional – who is involved in providing/improving the service?
CMO or CIMO - Realist Synthesis questions
CoCoPop - Prevalence or Incidence questions
ECLIPS(E) – Health service management questions
E Expectation—what does the search requester want the information for (the original ‘I’s)?
C Client Group.
I Impact—what is the change in the service, if any, which is being looked for? What would constitute success? How is this being measured?
S Service—for which service are you looking for information? For example, outpatient services, nurse-led clinics, intermediate care.
MIP – Medical ethics questions
M Methodology e.g. in-depth interviews or questionnaires
I Issues e.g. Healthcare Rationing or end-of-life decision-making
P Participants e.g. physicians or patients
PerSPEcTiF - Qualitative reviews
P Phenomenon of interest/problem
(C) (optional comparison)
Booth A, Noyes J, Flemming K, Moore G, Tuncalp O, Shakibazadeh E. Formulating questions to explore complex interventions within qualitative evidence synthesis. BMJ Glob Health. 2019;4(Suppl 1):e001107.
PICO – Reviews of interventions for health
P Patient or population
Nb add ‘S’ on end if study type is significant, a ‘C’ if context is significant or 'T' for timeframe
SPICE – Social science questions
(designed for librarian research questions)
S Setting – Where? In what context?
P Perspective – For who?
I Intervention (Phenomenon of Interest)– What?
C Comparison – What else?
E Evaluation – How well? What result?
SPIDER – Qualitative evidence synthesis
PI Phenomenon of Interest
R Research type
*With thanks to Linda Mace-Michalik (The Library, Roseberry Park Hospital, TEWV NHS FT) for distributing her compilation of alternatives to the PICO framework