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Evidence-Based Practice

Structuring your question

Before you start searching, be clear on what you're searching for. There are a variety of methods that can help structure your question. See the links below. (If conducting a Systematic Review, please see this guide)

Question types

The PICO structure is most commonly used in the health professions to research prognoses, diagnoses and therapies. It is mostly used to compare one intervention with another.

This video explains in more detail.

PICO clinical question example:

"In patients with cellulitis, does once-daily intravenous cephazolin and oral Probenecid, compared with twice daily intravenous Cephazolin, result in shorter time to recovery?"

Population/Patient Problem patients with cellulitis
Intervention (or exposure) once-daily IV cephazolin and oral probenecid
Comparison    twice-daily IV Cephazolin
Outcome shorter recovery time

SPICE can be used to evaluate the outcomes of a service, project, or intervention.

For more information, please see Booth, A. (2006). Clear and present questions: Formulating questions for evidence based practice. Library Hi Tech, 24(3), 355-368. doi:10.1108/07378830610692127

SPICE question example:

"In hospital waiting rooms, do therapy dog visits  (as opposed to no therapy dog visits), reduce anxiety in outpatients?"

Setting    Hospital waiting rooms
Perspective/Population Hospital outpatients
Intervention Therapy dog visits
Comparison    No therapy dog visits
Evaluation Reduced anxiety

The SPIDER tool is designed to structure qualitative research questions, focusing less on interventions and more on study design, and "samples" rather than populations.

The SPIDER question: "What are young parents’ experiences of attending antenatal education?"

Sample young parents
Phenomenon of Interest antenatal education
Design survey
Evaluation experiences
Research Type qualitative

Cooke, A., Smith, D., & Booth, A. (2012). Beyond PICO: The SPIDER tool for qualitative evidence synthesis. Qualitative Health Research, 22(10), 1435-1443. doi:10.1177/1049732312452938

ECLIPSE is useful for investigating the outcomes of a policy or service.

ECLIPSE question example: "How can I increase access to wireless internet for hospital patients?"


(what are you looking to improve/change?)

To increase access to wireless internet in the hospital
Client Group patients and families
Location hospitals
Impact    clients have easy access to free internet

Professionals (who is involved in improving the service?)

IT, hospital administration


(what kind of service is this?)

provision of free wireless internet to patients.