Formulating a Focused Clinical Question
It is important to articulate your need for information into a well-formulated clinical question. The question serves as a starting point for literature search and hence must have a degree of focus that strikes a balance between getting too many ‘irrelevant’ articles and ‘not getting any article at all’. Experts often distinguish between ‘focused’ questions and ‘general’ questions. Focused questions specify the type of patients, intervention under consideration, comparison and outcome. General questions usually start with ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’. For example, what is ‘SARS’? What is the pathology of acute myocardial infarction? How do bacteria enter brain? Where does malaria occur? Some authors like the term ‘background’ questions for general questions (and hence foreground for focused questions). These terms mysticise, and hence, I do not favour them.