Systematic reviews

Structure your search question with an acronym

Planning your search before starting helps you determine what kind of information you need and what words you will use to search for the information. For the literature search to provide relevant results, it is essential that you really know what you are searching for. 

Once you have formulated a search question, the next step is to determine which acronym (examples below) to structure your question around. Perhaps one of them will suit your specific topic.


PICO is useful to frame your topic and your search question. Based on the content in PICO, you can then build your search blocks and get control of your search. 

PICO consists of these parts:

  • Population: Patient group or population. 
  • Intervention: The intervention, method or treatment you want to study. 
  • Control: Comparison of the intervention. Shall the studies you find be compared to other kinds of studies/treatments?
  • Outcome: Describes the effect you are interested in.

Example: Does naproxen offer more efficient pain relief than ibuprofen for patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis? 

Population: Patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis
Intervention: Efficiency of pain treatment with naproxen
Control: Compared with ibuprofen
Outcome: Improved pain treatment, higher quality of life, less pain

Usually, you only need to search for terms describing Population, Intervention and perhaps Control since it is recommended to start your search wide in order to not miss out on relevant material.


ECLIPSE is suitable for research questions where policy material is needed or when investigating the outcome of a service.


How can educational efforts initiated by the municipality increase the educational level among suburban residents without upper secondary education?

Expectation: Improve conditions for the municipality to increase the educational level among suburban residents without upper secondary education
Client group:  Adult suburb residents with low educational level
Location:  Suburb areas surrounding Swedish cities with at least 100 000 inhabitants 
Impact: Improved access and efficiency in education among adult suburban residents
Professionals: Education Department 
Service: Educational efforts from the Education Department aimed at adults


SPICE is suitable for qualitative evidence or when investigating an intervention or a project.

Example:  Can municipal women’s shelters provide women suffering from abuse-related trauma with better possibilities for permanent housing than private ones?

Setting: Women’s shelters, Sweden
Perspective: Women with abuse-related trauma
Intervention: Process from (municipal) women’s shelters to permanent housing
Comparison: Compared with private shelters
Evaluation: Increased possibilities of permanent housing 


SPIDER is suitable for qualitative and mixed methods focusing on study design and focus groups rather than populations.

Example:  How do parents and children experience kindergarten introduction?

Sample: Children and parents introduced to kindergarten
Phenomenon of Interest: Kindergarten introduction
Design: Case studies and interviews
Evaluation: Experience
Research type: Qualitative