SPICE framework for defining research questions

A Summary of

Booth, A. (2006). Clear and present questions: formulating questions for evidence based practice. Library Hi Tech. 24:3, 355-368.


The acronym SPICE stands for Setting, Perspective, Intervention, Comparison and Evaluation, and provides a way to formulate practice questions for finding evidence in existing research. It builds upon the PICO acronym (Population, Intervention, Comparison and Outcomes) in two ways. First, the population component is split into two parts: setting and perspective. Second, “outcomes” is replaced with “evaluation” in order to encourage a broader evaluation framework and incorporate concepts such as “outputs” and “impact” together.

The benefits of such a structured approach to question formulation include a more efficient search, use of scarce time on only relevant evidence, and improvement in articulation and communication of problems with colleagues. This leads to asking more questions, undertaking more searches and using more detailed search methods to find more precise answers.

Access the Tool

Format of the Tool




On-line Access



Using the Tool

Time for Participation/Completion

The time required to formulate a research question using the SPICE framework will vary with the topic that is being studied.

Additional Resources and/or Skills Needed for Implementation


Steps for Using Method/Tool

The SPICE framework consists of five distinct features:

  1. Setting – where?
  2. Perspective – for whom?
  3. Intervention – what?
  4. Comparison – compared with what?
  5. Evaluation – with what result?

When users are beginning a new search for evidence, SPICE helps to structure a clear search question. Users consider each of the five features of SPICE and ask the accompanying questions in order to develop a thoughtful question and search for relevant literature to yield a precise and useful answer.

Who is involved

SPICE is useful for anyone looking to generate focused, clear and structured research questions. This is especially useful for public health professionals engaging in evidence-informed public health practice.

Conditions for Use


Evaluation of the Tool


Information not available


Not applicable


Not applicable

Methodological Rating

Not applicable

Development of the Tool


Andrew Booth

Method of Development

The SPICE framework was developed after considering the recommendation that librarians use a modified version of PICO to improve the process of question formulation. SPICE builds upon PICO to address the needs of librarians engaged in evidence-based information practice. SPICE was developed in a conceptual paper that extrapolates findings from health care research to general librarianship.

Release Date


Contact Person/Source

Andrew Booth
School of Health and Related Research
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

These summaries are written by the NCCMT to condense and to provide an overview of the resources listed in the Registry of Methods and Tools and to give suggestions for their use in a public health context. For more information on individual methods and tools included in the review, please consult the authors/developers of the original resources.

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