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A Guide to Evidence Synthesis: Writing your Research Question

Developing Your Research Question

Writing a research question takes time and is critical to establishing what type of research study you will carry.  Your research question has equal impact on the type of review methodology you will choose.  Research questions can vary across disciplines and research design.  Because systematic reviews require very detailed research questions, we will focus on structuring research questions accordingly. 


The most common framework for research questions that require a systematic review is PICO. 

  • (P) Population/Problem     "In patients with heart failure from dilated cardiomyopathy who are in sinus rhythm..."
  • (I)  Intervention     "would adding anticoagulation with warfarin to standard heart failure therapy alone..."
  • (C) Comparison     "when compared with standard therapy alone..."
  • (O) Outcome     "lead to lower mortatlity or morbidity from thromboembolism?"


Research questions that exclude interventions, are more broad in scope, or are seeking to synthesize existing evidence across studies that are heterogeneous in nature will fall outside of the requirements for a systematic review.