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Systematic Reviews

This is a guide to understanding Systematic Reviews, its components, and links to resources

A Good Place to Start

If you are planning to conduct a systematic review or evidence synthesis project, consider meeting with one of the Systematic Review Service Librarians. Librarians are masters at creating search strategies and manipulating databases, which is where you will be gathering data for your review. 

PICO for Qualitative & Quantitative Studies

PICO questions are a helpful framework for any search you conduct. Here are a couple other ways you can tweak the PICO formula for your particular study: 

For Qualitative Studies

  • P - Population/Problem
  • I - Phenomenon of Interest 
  • Co - Context

Example: What are the experiences (phenomenon of interest) of caregivers providing home based care to patients with Alzheimer's disease (population) in Australia (context)?

For Quantitative Studies

  • P - Population/Problem
  • I - Intervention/Exposure
  • C - Comparison
  • O - Outcome

Example: Is gabapentin (intervention), compared to placebo (comparison), effective in decreasing pain symptoms (outcome) in middle aged male amputees suffering phantom limb pain (population)?

Additional Frameworks

Below are some additional research question frameworks. While these are not standard for a systematic review, they can be a useful tool for other research projects you conduct. 


  • S - Setting
  • P - Perspective (for whom)
  • I - Intervention/Exposure
  • C - Comparison
  • E - Evaluation

Example: What are the benefits (evaluation) of a doula (intervention) for low income mothers (perspective) in the developed world (setting) compared to no support (comparison)?


  • S - Sample
  • PI - Phenomenon of Interest
  • D - Design
  • E - Evaluation
  • R - Study Type

Design: questionnaire, survey, or interview
Study Type: qualitative or mixed methods
Example: What are the experiences (evaluation) of women (sample) undergoing IVF treatment (phenomenon of interest) as assessed?


Ghezzi-Kopel, Kate. (2019, September 16). Developing your research question. (research guide). Retrieved from