The essential first step in the Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) process is the identification of uncertainty, or the need for information, and the translation of this uncertainty into answerable clinical questions. Developing the ability to formulate precise, structured, and answerable clinical questions has been identified as one of the key tasks for clinicians using the strategies of EBP in their clinical work. The question needs to be:
Directly relevant to the identified problem, and
Constructed in a way that facilitates searching for a precise answer.1
The investment of time to consider what you need to find out and construct a focused clinical question will yield a more effective and efficient search for evidence, helping you to more quickly locate the best available evidence to inform your patient care decision.2
EBP experts recommend the following steps in formulating a clinical question:
Analyse the question into components using the P I C O framework;
Rephrase your question using the concepts from your P I C O analysis;
Identify the type or domain of the question.
The next section in Module 1 explains these three steps.
1. Geddes, J. (1999). Asking structured and focused clinical questions: essential first step of evidence-based practice. Evidence Based Mental Health, 2, 35-36 doi: doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/ebmh.2.2.35
2. Richardson, W. (1998). Ask, and ye shall retrieve [EBM note]. Evidence-Based Medicine, 3:100−1.