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Evidence Based Medicine: Module 1: Ask

Categorizing Your Question

Determining what type of question you have is a necessary first step, one which allow you to refine your question, select an appropriate resource to search, and ultimately, find an answer. Broadly speaking, questions can be either background or foreground. Background questions are broad in nature. What are the signs and symptoms of acute hyponatremia? What is the differential diagnosis for orbital cellulitis? Which anticoagulants are most commonly used to treat atrial fibrillation? These questions ask for general knowledge about conditions, illnesses, patterns of disease, and pathophysiology.

In contrast foreground questions are specific in nature. They ask for specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions or action in a specific patient population. The PICO framework is typically recommended for refining and focusing foreground questions.

EBM Question Type Algorithm

Decision tree figure created based on framework described in Straus S, Glasziou P, Richardson W, Haynes R. Evidence-Based Medicine : How to Practice and Teach EBM. 5th ed. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2019.