How to Create a Research Question

Creating a question. Before you can write your proposal, you need a research question. A successful literature review begins with a clear research question. This question will dictate which databases to search, which articles to select, and what information to use from the articles you read.

You might be wondering, couldn’t a scientific question be answered by a well-designed study? To go from study results to clinical guidelines, a synthesis of multiple studies is often required to ensure the results are reproducible and the answer is consistent. This is where literature reviews are valuable.

In medicine, the PICO framework is often used to design a clear and focused question that allows you to more efficiently identify relevant evidence. A PICO question consists of:

  • Patient, Population, or Problem
  • Receiving an Intervention or exposure
  • Compared to another test, treatment, population, or placebo
  • Producing an Outcome such as morbidity, mortality, complications, improvement.

More information on PICO questions and examples can be found here.

Test your question with an initial search of medical literature, and revise it until you start to obtain results relevant to the project you have in mind. After your proposal has been approved you will consult with our Health Sciences Librarian, Rachel Blume, to refine your search strategy and then systematically search literature in more depth.