Start with a broad topic - it could be a health condition, procedure or tool, a research methodology, or health care policy. Most importantly it should be of interest to you. You can find ideas in text books, medical dictionaries and encyclopedias, review articles, conference proceedings and abstracts, and by checking out the bibliographies in each resource. Also, don't forget that many ideas start by talking with colleagues or professors!
Harvey, BJ, Lang ES, JR Frank, eds. The research guide: a primer for residents, other health care trainees, and practitioners. Ottawa: Royal College of Physicans and Surgeons of Canada; 2011.
Evidence-Based Practice: PICO. Duke University.
A good research question will meet the FINER criteria developed by Hulley et al (2007). It will be:
Feasible - number of subjects, methodology, scope, time, money
Interesting - does the investigator want to study this topic?
Novel - will the study provide new findings or extend, refute, or confirm existing findings?
Ethical - will the institutional review board approve the project?
Relevant - will the study add to the scientific knowledge, clinical practice, health policy?
Hulley S, Cummings S, Browner W, et al. Designing clinical research. 3rd ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2007.
Why should I formulate a structured research question?
Where do questions fit into evidence-based practice?
What characterizes a good question?
What does an undeveloped question look like?
What does a well-formulated question look like?
“Is a fall prevention program more effective than education upon discharge from acute care in decreasing the incidence of falls in elderly clients who live independently at home?” (Lou & Durando, 2008, p. 98)
You can structure your research question in one of several ways but no matter which of the following structures you use, your question should be well developed, clear, and focused.
Patient or Problem, Intervention, Comparison Intervention, Outcome
Patient or Problem, Intervention, Comparison Intervention, Outcome, Timeframe
Person, Environment, Stakeholders, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome
Population, Interventions, Professionals/Patients, Outcome, Health Care Setting