Skip to Main Content

Systematic, Scoping, and Rapid Reviews

Develop a Research Question

For both systematic and scoping reviews, a clear research question is important.

The research question guides the development of inclusion criteria and the literature search strategy.

You will need to do some preliminary searching of the literature in order to develop a research question and to ensure that there is not an existing or in-progress review on your question.

Systematic Review Questions

Systematic review research questions are typically much narrower than scoping review research questions.

The PICO(S) framework is often used to help define the question, particularly questions about the effectiveness of interventions:

P - Population / Patient / Problem
I - Intervention
C - Comparison / Control Group 
O - Outcome(s) 
S - Study design (optional)

Example:  In adults with multiple sclerosis, does exercise therapy reduce fatigue?

P - Adults with multiple sclerosis
I - Exercise therapy
C -  n/a
O - Fatigue
S - Randomized controlled trials

Other frameworks can be used for different types of questions.

Scoping Review Questions

For scoping reviews, the research question is often broader than for systematic reviews, since the aim is to map the literature rather than find a specific answer.

JBI suggests using the PCC mnemonic: 

P - Population
C - Concept
C - Context

Example: What are best practices for communication among interprofessional health care teams in acute care?

P - Interprofessional health care teams
C - Best practices for communication
C - Acute care settings

Further reading on scoping review questions

Scoping reviews: Developing the title and question. In: Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors). JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. JBI; 2020. https://doi.org/10.46658/JBIMES-20-01