Beyond PICO: The SPIDER tool for qualitative evidence synthesis

Alison Cooke, Debbie Smith, Andrew Booth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Standardized systematic search strategies facilitate rigor in research. Current search tools focus on retrieval of quantitative research. In this article we address issues relating to using existing search strategy tools, most typically the PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) formulation for defining key elements of a review question, when searching for qualitative and mixed methods research studies. An alternative search strategy tool for qualitative/mixed methods research is outlined: SPIDER (Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research type). We used both the SPIDER and PICO search strategy tools with a qualitative research question. We have used the SPIDER tool to advance thinking beyond PICO in its suitable application to qualitative and mixed methods research. However, we have highlighted once more the need for improved indexing of qualitative articles in databases. To constitute a viable alternative to PICO, SPIDER needs to be refined and tested on a wider range of topics. © The Author(s) 2012.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1435-1443
    Number of pages8
    JournalQualitative Health Research
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


    • literature
    • metasynthesis
    • research, mixed methods
    • research, qualitative
    • systematic reviews


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