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Systematic Reviews: Step 1 Research Question

A Synthesis and Evaluation of existing evidence

Tips for Crafting a Research Question

Crafting a well-defined research question is crucial for initiating a systematic review. Here are some tips and examples to guide you through the process:

  1. Be Specific: Ensure your research question is clear, focused, and specific. Avoid broad or vague questions that are difficult to answer systematically.

  2. Follow a Framework: Consider using a structured framework like PICO(T), PI/EC, SPIDER, or SPICE to help organize your thoughts and identify key components of your question.

  3. Consider Feasibility: Ensure that your research question is feasible given available resources, time constraints, and the scope of the review.

  4. Consult Relevant Literature: Review existing literature to identify gaps, controversies, or areas needing further investigation. This can help you refine your research question.

  5. Think About Relevance: Consider the relevance and importance of your research question to the field of study and potential implications for practice or policy.

  6. Involve Stakeholders: If applicable, involve stakeholders such as clinicians, policymakers, or patients in the formulation of your research question to ensure it addresses relevant concerns.

Examples of Crafted Research Questions:

  1. PICO(T) Example:

    • Population: Patients with type 2 diabetes
    • Intervention: Dietary intervention (e.g., low-carbohydrate diet)
    • Comparison: Standard care (e.g., ADA-recommended diet)
    • Outcome: Change in HbA1c levels
    • Timeframe: Over a 6-month period

    Research Question: "In patients with type 2 diabetes, does a low-carbohydrate diet intervention compared to standard care lead to greater reductions in HbA1c levels over a 6-month period?"

  2. PI/EC Example:

    • Population: Pregnant women
    • Exposure: Maternal smoking during pregnancy
    • Comparison: Non-smoking pregnant women
    • Outcome: Risk of preterm birth

    Research Question: "Among pregnant women, does maternal smoking during pregnancy increase the risk of preterm birth compared to non-smoking pregnant women?"

  3. SPIDER Example:

    • Sample: Adolescents with depression
    • Phenomenon of Interest: Experiences with online peer support groups
    • Design: Qualitative interviews
    • Evaluation: Perceived benefits and challenges

    Research Question: "What are the experiences of adolescents with depression participating in online peer support groups, as revealed through qualitative interviews, and what are the perceived benefits and challenges of such participation?"

  4. SPICE Example:

    • Setting: Elementary schools
    • Perspective: Teachers and students
    • Intervention/Exposure: Implementation of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs
    • Comparison: No mindfulness intervention
    • Evaluation: Changes in student well-being and academic performance

    Research Question: "In elementary schools, how does the implementation of mindfulness-based stress reduction programs, from the perspectives of teachers and students, impact student well-being and academic performance compared to schools without such programs?"

By following these tips and examples, you can craft a research question that serves as a solid foundation for your systematic review, guiding the entire research process from literature search to data synthesis and interpretation.