The first step to finding the information you need is to ask a good question. This can be harder than it sounds! There are, however, three key reasons to do this:
There are lots of strategies you can use to develop a good question. One popular one in nursing is called the PICO method. The letters in PICO stand for specific elements of a well developed question:
Here's an example of how you could apply the PICO format to a specific research topic:
|Patient or Problem
|Intervention (a cause, treatment, etc.)
|Comparison Intervention (if necessary)
|Tips for Building
|With the patient or problem in mind, ask "How would I describe a group of patients similar to mine?" Be precise, but as brief as possible
|Ask "which main therapy or intervention am I considering?" Be specific.
|Ask "Is there an alternative treatment or therapy to compare with the intervention?" Be specific, but remember that there may not be one
|Ask "What can I hope to accomplish?" or "What is the clinical outcome?" Again, be specific.
|"In babies born with jaundice..."
|"... does light therapy..."
|".... as opposed to no light therapy... "
|"... reduce total serum bilirubin levels faster?"
Creating a PICO question can also help you figure out what keywords you should use when searching a database like CINAHL or Google Scholar. Simply look at the concepts in each component of your PICO statement and pull out a word or two for each one that clearly and concisely represents that concept.
Here are the concepts from our example about phototherapy for newborns with jaundice:
|Primary Research Term
|Newborns with jaundice
Things to keep in mind:
After you have written your question, it can be helpful to stop and think about what kind of question it is. Our example about light therapy for newborns with jaundice would be considered a therapy question, because it is trying to determine if light therapy is better or worse than no light therapy.
Determining the type of question you are looking for can help you figure out what kind of study you should target. As the chart below demonstrates, randomized control trials, case controlled studies, or cohort studies are usually the best type of evidence to use. This can help you figure out where to search for information on your topic.
|Most Common Type of Question
|Best Type of Study to Look for:
How to select and interpret diagnostic tests
|prospective, blind comparison to a gold standard or cross-sectional
How to select treatments that do more good than harm and that are work the efforts and costs of using them
|randomized controlled trial
How to estimate the patient's likely clinical course over time (based on factors other than the intervention) and anticipate likely complications of disease
case control study
How to identify causes for disease (including iatrogenic forms)
case control study