Systematic review searching
Conceptualising the search
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.
An overview of the process described across these tabs is available for download here:
|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
Watch the video below for how to translate a PICO to a logic grid.
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.
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