What makes a good question?

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, right? That might be true, but there are questions that are too broad or too narrow, especially for the purposes of a systematic review.

Why are good questions so important? Because they form the road map for your research plan. If you start your systematic review with a question that is too broad, you’ll never gather all of the available evidence.

Broad questions can also be impossible to answer. You can’t systematically collect evidence about “the best technique for smoking cessation” because the answer will vary depending on each person as well as his or her situation and environment.

If your question is too narrow, it’s possible that there’s no research, or not enough research to synthesize. That means a systematic review isn’t possible.

Keep in mind, It’s very possible that the question you want to answer doesn’t fit the structure or scope of a useful research question.

Also, you might think you have one question, but to truly address the topic you care about, you might need to create a series of questions.

Luckily, there’s a process to help you build an effective research question. We call it PICO(D).