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*Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine*

Asking an Answerable Question

Your first step in searching the literature is to define your question and phrase it so that you don't miss any important evidence.  This is harder than you might think!

Foreground vs. Background Questions

Background Questions Foreground Questions
General Knowledge about a disorder Very specific about managing patients
Usually about well-established facts Need the current, best information on diagnosis, treatment, etiology, prognosis
Can often find the answer in a book Need to look in the research literature

Formatting Your Question

A well formed answerable question will also make it relatively straightforward to identify appropriate search terms and to combine them in the search strategy.
One way of identifying the key concepts is to use The PICO Method.

You may not need to use all of PICO - it depends on what you want to find out!

Patient or Population Who is the relevant patient or population? Be as specific as possible e.g. puppies, geriatric patients, pregnant bitches, spaniels?
Intervention How? What intervention are you interested in? E.g. what is the management strategy, diagnostic test or type of food, drug or surgical procedure that you are testing?
Comparison/control What is the main alternative? E.g. is there a control or alternative management strategy or intervention that you are particularly interested to compare? Sometimes, when you want to know if the intervention above is better than doing nothing, the comparator will be “no intervention”.
Outcome What are you trying to achieve, measure, improve, effect? E.g. what are the patient-relevant consequences of the intervention? Be as clear as you can here.
Time or Study Design

These are optional but they might be important in limiting your results

                                                                                                                  From RCVS Knowledge EBVM Tookit Asking an Answerable Question


You might want to try out this tool to help you get started.