If you’re interested in conducting a systematic review, you probably already have a question or a topic to explore. But how do you know whether this question can be effectively answered or if it has already been answered? Your topic may be too broad or too narrow. That’s why it’s important to take an initial look at the available evidence to see if there’s enough research (or too much research) to address your question.
Talk to stakeholders and experts in the field to get a better sense of which questions might be meaningful to them. You should also carefully consider how an answer might be used. And of course, be sure to check if someone has already conducted a similar systematic review, or is planning to do so in the near future.
Where do you check? Go to PROSPERO, a registry of planned, ongoing and completed systematic reviews. If you eventually conduct a review yourself, you can register your protocol here too!
Then, craft a question that’s clear and specific enough to guide what kind of studies should and shouldn’t be included in your search.
There’s actually a specific technique for writing an effective research question called PICO(D).
Well-defined research questions include the followings elements:
For more information about the PICO(D) approach, check out our Developing Your Question course.