Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Library Services

  1. Library Services Home
  2. Resources
  3. Support
  4. About
  5. My Library

Doing postgraduate research

Covers the steps involved in performing a literature search for a postgraduate dissertation or research paper. Help is available through written guides; videos and links.

Using a framework to structure your question

Frameworks have been designed by health researchers to help structure research questions and clarify the main concepts you want to focus on. Your question may not fit perfectly into a framework, just using part of a framework can be sufficient.

 

Which framework should I use?

The framework you should use depends on the type of question you will be researching. 

Type of question:

  • Effectiveness of an intervention or treatment: PICO
  • Prognostic: PFO
  • Prevalence/Incidence: COCoPop
  • Costs/economic evaluation: PICOC, CLIP or ECLIPS(E)

For qualitative questions:

  • To evaluate the experiences or meaningfulness of a particular phenomenon: PICo, PEO,SPICE or SPIDER

 

Details about each framework can be seen below:

PICO

(for questions covering the effectiveness of an intervention, treatment etc.)

Patient, Population or Problem - who and/or what is my question focussed on?
Intervention - what intervention is being considered?
Comparison - what intervention is this being compared with (a comparison is not always necessary)
Outcomes - what do you hope to accomplish, improve or affect?

 

Example:  Alternatives to drugs for controlling headaches in children

P - children

I - alternatives to drugs (complementary therapies? changes to lifestyle?)

C - drugs

O - controlling headaches

Extensions to PICO

There are extensions to the PICO framework available which you can use if your topic has additional concepts:

PICOS- here the S stands for study designs (you can use this framework if you are only interested in examining specific designs of study)

PICOT- here the T stands for timeframe (you can use this framework if your outcomes need to be measured in a certain amount of time e.g. 24 hours after surgery).

PFO

(for questions relating to prognosis issues)

Population- who and/or what is my question focused on?

Prognostic Factors- what is being prognosed?

Outcomes- what are the possible outcomes of the prognosis?

 

Example: How likely are children with febrile seizures to develop a seizure disorder?

P- children

F- febrile seizures

O- seizure disorders

 

CoCoPop

(for questions relating to the prevalence/incidence of a condition, problem etc.)

Condition- what condition/problem are you examining?

Context- in what context is your question set?

Population- what population/group are you examining

 

Example: What is the prevalence of claustrophobia in adult patients undergoing MRI?

Condition- claustrophobia

Context- MRI

Population- adults

PICOC

(for questions relating to cost effectiveness, economic evaluations, service improvements etc.)

Patient, Population or Problem - who and/or what is my question focussed on?

Intervention - what intervention is being considered?

Comparison - what intervention is this being compared with? (a comparison is not always necessary)

Outcomes - what do you hope to accomplish, improve or affect?

Context- in what context or place is the problem set?

 

ExampleWhat is the cost effectiveness of self monitoring of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes in high income countries?

P- type 2 diabetes

I- self monitoring of blood glucose

C- N/A

O- cost effectiveness

C- high income countries

 

CLIP

(for questions relating to cost effectiveness, economic evaluations, service improvements etc.)

Client – who is the service aimed at?
Location – where is the service sited?
Improvement – what do you want to find out?
Professional – who is involved in providing/improving the service?
 
Example: Ways of improving health visiting services to elderly in rural communities
 
C - elderly
L - rural communities
I - how services can be improved
P - health visiting

ECLIPS(E)

(for questions relating to cost effectiveness, economic evaluations, service improvements etc.)

Expectation - what is the information needed for?
Client Group -who is the information needed for e.g. health managers, GPs, patients
Location - where is the client group or service located
Impact - what is the change in the service, if any, which is being looked for? What would constitute success? How is this being measured?
Professionals - what health professionals are involved in the service?
Service - for which service are you looking for information? For example, outpatient services, nurse-led clinics, intermediate care.

 

Example:  retention of A & E nurses in the NHS

E- to find out retention rates

C- (patients? managers?)

L- NHS

I- retention of staff

P- nurses

S- A & E

PICo

(for qualitative questions evaluating experiences, meaningfulness etc.)

Patient, Population or Problem- who and/or what is my question focussed on?

Interest- a defined event, experience, activity or process

Context- a setting or distinct characteristics

 

Example: What are the experiences of patients with pressure sores who receive treatment at home?

P- patients with pressure sores

I- experiences, views, opinions

Co- care in the home

 

PEO

(for qualitative questions evaluating experiences, meaningfulness etc.)

Population - who is my question focussed on?

Exposure - what is the issue I'm interested in?

Outcomes or themes - what theme do I want to examine?

 

Example: The quality of life of carers for people with dementia

P- carers

E- dementia

O- quality of life

SPICE

(for qualitative questions evaluating experiences, meaningfulness etc.)

Setting - where is the study set e.g. in a specific country, community, in a hospital, in a care home etc.
Perspective - from whose perspective is the study done e.g. the patients, the health professionals., the carers etc.
Intervention - what intervention is being examined?
Comparison - is the intervention being compared with another?
Evaluation - the outcome measures

 

Example: Attitudes of carers of people with dementia towards reminiscence therapy

S - (United Kingdom? care homes?)

P - carers

I - reminiscence therapy

C - NONE

E - attitudes

SPIDER

(for qualitative questions evaluating experiences, meaningfulness etc.)

Sample - the group of people being looked at, because qualitative research is not easy to generalize, sample is preferred over patient.
Phenomenon of Interest -  reasons for behaviour and decisions, rather than an intervention.
Design - the form of research used, such as interview or survey.
Evaluation - outcome measures.
Research type - qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed methods.

 

Example:  Young parents experiences of attending ante-natal education

S - young parents

PI - attendance at ante-natal education classes

D - (interviews? surveys?)

E - Experiences

R - (qualitative studies?)