Search Concept Tools

PICO and other tools for developing research questions and search concepts

A variety of tools are listed that can be used to formulate your research question and identify possible search concepts for your literature search. As a rule of thumb pick the 2-4 concepts which are most simple to search for.*

1. CLIP –Health service management questions

C Client – at whom is the service aimed?
L Location – where is the service sited?
I Improvement – what do you want to find out?
P Professional – who is involved in providing/improving the service?

2. CMO or CIMO - Realist Synthesis questions

C Context
I Intervention
M Mechanism
O Outcome
Wong G, Greenhalgh T, Westhorp G, Buckingham J, Pawson R. RAMESES publication standards: realist syntheses. BMC medicine. 2013 Jan 29;11(1):21.

3. ECLIPS(E) – Health service management questions

E Expectation—what does the search requester want the information for (the original ‘I’s)?
C Client Group.
L Location.
I Impact—what is the change in the service, if any, which is being looked for? What would constitute success? How is this being measured?
P Professionals.
S Service—for which service are you looking for information? For example, outpatient services, nurse-led clinics, intermediate care.
Wildrige V & Bell L. How CLIP became ECLIPSE: a mnemonic to assist in searching for health policy/management information; HILJ 2002;19(2)113-5 

4. MIP – Medical ethics questions

M Methodology  e.g. in-depth interviews or questionnaires
I Issues e.g. Healthcare Rationing or  end-of-life decision-making
P Participants e.g. physicians or patients
Strech D, Synofzik M, Marckmann G. Systematic reviews of empirical bioethics. J Med Ethics 2008;34:472-477 

5. PICO – Reviews of interventions for health

P Patient or population
I intervention
C comparator
O Outcomes
Richardson W S, Wilson M C, Nishikawa J, & Hayward R S A.The well-built clinical question: A key to evidence-based decisions. ACP Journal Club 1995;123 A12-13.

Nb add ‘S’ on end if study type is significant, a ‘C’ if context is significant or 'T' for timeframe

6. SPICE – Social science questions (designed for librarian research questions)

S Setting – Where? In what context?
P Perspective – For who?
I Intervention (Phenomenon of Interest)– What?
C Comparison – What else?
E Evaluation – How well? What result?
Booth A. Clear and present questions: Formulating questions for evidence based practice. Library Hi Tech. 2006; 24(3), 355-68.

7. SPIDER – Qualitative evidence synthesis

S Sample
P I Phenomenon of interest
D Design
E Evaluation
R Research type
Cooke A; Smith D;  Booth A; Beyond PICO : The SPIDER Tool for Qualitative Evidence Synthesis – Qual Health Res. 2012; 22(10) 1435-1443

*With thanks to Linda Mace-Michalik (The Library, Roseberry Park Hospital, TEWV NHS FT) for distributing her compilation of alternatives to the PICO framework.

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