Formulating Questions for Evidence-Based Practice (SPICE Framework)

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

Journal article


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.

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.

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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