Asking a clear question

The validity criteria are designed to ensure that the systematic review is conducted in a manner that minimises the introduction of bias. Like the well-built clinical question for individual studies, a focused clinical question for a systematic review should contain four elements8:

1. a patient, group of patients or problem

2. an intervention

3. comparison interventions

4. specific outcomes

The patient groups should be similar to the majority of patients seen in the population to which one wishes to apply the results of the systematic review. The interventions studied should be those commonly available in practice. Outcomes reported should be those that are most relevant to physicians and patients.

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