Systematic Reviews & Meta-analyses: Develop a
Targeted Question

Guidance on conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Developing a Targeted Research Question

  • Examine your topic to identify the major concepts you need to conduct the best searches.  Some useful ways to do this include:
    • Background planning: think of the 5 W's and H for your topic: 
      • Who - are the stakeholders, population of interest, involved parties 
      • What - are the issues, problems, needs
      • Where - are you, is the focus of the study / interest (single or multiple locations? small or large group?)
      • When - will researched changes be implemented, have related events or studies taken place
      • Why - is this problem, need, issue being addressed; why is your review study critical to addressing it
      • How - will possible solutions, interventions, other aspects of the research be assessed for effectiveness, quality; how will results be delivered and/or implemented
    • Focus-in by using the PICO(T) method to further develop one or more specific questions:
      • P: Population/Problem - what is the main problem you are addressing, what are the characteristics of related and/or stakeholder population/s, settings?
      • I: Intervention / method to Implement to address the problem of interest
      • C: any Comparison methods or interventions to research
      • O: Outcome/s (measures reported in studies) of interest - what are measurable outcomes (standardized measures if possible) that would demonstrate the level of effectiveness of an intervention/implementation method or comparison that you are researching?
      • (T): (Time frame) - you may want to consider if there are specific time frames of interest for your research question and setting. In your context, is it important to review studies that have addressed the Problem / Population, Intervention/Implementation method, Comparison, and measured Outcomes within a specific period of time, such as 3 months; 1 year; an academic year; etc.

 

  • EXAMPLE – for the topic: Our group would like to research how/if socioeconomic factors leading to health disparities lead to a risk of late diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Our population of interest is people living in the United States, in Arizona.  An intervention we’re considering implementing and studying to raise awareness and increase early diagnosis in order to improve successful treatment is to hold screening events and follow up with patient navigation techniques.
    • 5W’s and H:
      • Who: groups with socioeconomic factors leading to health disparities with a risk of late diagnosis of colorectal cancer
      • What: awareness and diagnosis of colorectal cancer
      • When: is there a time factor?  (for example if screening opportunities are available bimonthly, or some other time factor?
      • Where: in the United States, in AZ
      • Why: to raise awareness of colorectal cancer and increase early diagnosis in order to improve likelihood of successful treatment
      • How: patient navigation and screening
    • PICO(T)
      • P: groups with socioeconomic factors leading to health disparities in the United States, in AZ, with a risk of late diagnosis of colorectal cancer
      • I: Patient Navigation and screening
      • C: no comparison
      • O: raise awareness of colorectal cancer and increase early diagnosis in order to improve likelihood of successful treatment
      • (T): is there a time factor?  (for example if screening opportunities are available bimonthly, or some other time factor?)

 

  • Create a Research Question or PICO(T) Question from your major concepts – to help direct your search
    • Do Patient Navigation techniques (How/I) facilitate screening and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer (What/Why/O) for individuals with socioeconomic factors/health disparities in Arizona, in the United States (Who//Where/P)?

PICO(T) Question Development Worksheet

Worksheet for Developing PICO(T) Questions from the AAACN (American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing); permission granted on the PDF file for educational and research uses of the template.

Consultations

Request a consultation:

  • Email: srconsultation-g@vt.edu
  • In your email, let us know your current project research focus, planning stage, timeline, and goals. 

Cozette Comer, Evidence Synthesis Librarian, Liaison Librarian: Statistics and Computational Modeling & Data Analytics, cozette@vt.edu

Kiri DeBose, Head, Veterinary Medicine Library & Liaison to Animal Sciences, kdebose@vt.edu

Ginny Pannabecker, Liaison Librarian: Biochemistry, Biocomplexity Institute, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Neuroscience, and Systems Biology; Director, RCE, vpannabe@vt.edu