Systematic review searching
Conceptualising the search
An overview of the process described across these tabs is available for download here:
Formulating the question
The systematic review question is formulated a priori and tested during the scoping phase.
A standard formula for structuring the review question is PICO(S) for quantitative questions and SPIDER for qualitative ones.
|Is high dose amoxicillin more effective than a watch-and-wait approach to treating children with otitis media (middle ear infection)?|
Population: Children with otitis media
SPIDER for qualitative questions
What are the challenges faced by mothers living with multiple myeloma in remote and rural areas of Australia?
Sample: Mothers living with multiple myeloma
From PICO to a Logic Grid
Once you have clarified your question by creating a PICOS or SPIDER structure for it, transfer the significant concepts in your PICO/SPIDER to a Logic Grid.
The Logic Grid will help you:
- identify the concepts in your question which need to searched on for your search to have a minimum level of precision
- clarify which concepts can be left out of the search, or added later if required to improve precision
- prepare for finding appropriate and useful synonyms, acronyms, variant spellings etc. for each concept.
Watch the video below for how to translate a PICO to a logic grid.
The study designs best suited for answering your question will depend on the type of question being asked.
Common question types:
- Therapy: how to select treatment to offer patients that do more good than harm and that are worth the efforts and costs of using them.
- Diagnosis: how to select and interpret diagnostic tests in order to confirm or exclude a diagnosis, based on considering their specificity, sensitivity, likelihood ratios, expense, safety, etc.
- Prognosis: how to estimate the patient's likely clinical course over time and anticipate likely complications of disease.
- Etiology/Harm: how to identify causes for disease.
- Prevention: how to reduce the chance of disease by identifying and modifying risk factors and how to diagnose early by screening.
- Qualitative: how is the person experiencing what is happening to them? What are their perceptions, beliefs, attitudes?
Best designs for specific question types:
Methodological search filters for limiting a search by study design