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Evidence Synthesis in the Social Sciences

Define an Objective

The objective is the rationale behind why this review should be conducted. What are you trying to understand about the topic you’re reviewing? 

Example Objective from Kelmendi and Hamby (2022) 

“...there is a need to understand positive adaption and resilience in cultures outside North America and Western Europe, where much resilience and trauma research has been conducted [rationale]. Therefore, this scoping review examines the existing empirical evidence on trauma and resilience in southeastern European countries, with a particular focus on Kosovo [aim].” 


PICO is likely the most well-used and widely known framework. PICO Stands for: 

  • P  Population/Problem (who or what?) 
  • I   Intervention/Exposure (what action is being taken) 
  • C  Comparison (compared to what outcomes without intervention) 
  • O  Outcome (what result?) 

Example: Do midsize midwestern cities (population) that build bicycle lanes (intervention) have more bicycle commuters (outcome) when compared to midsize midwestern cities without bike lanes (comparison)? 

Models for Forming Research Questions

Forming a research question takes time and may take several iterations. There are many frameworks that you can use to transpose your initial research interest or knowledge gap into a specific research question. For a comprehensive, but brief overview of many frameworks, see the below attached rapid review that was part of a British Medical Journal article about question frameworks, and the University of Maryland Library Guide on research question frameworks.  

It is recommended that your team explore question frameworks to find the ones that work for you. The following examples demonstrate some of the most prevalent frameworks for evidence synthesis in the social sciences. 

PCC Framework

Craft your questions using the PCC framework, based on your objective. 


PCC Element Definition Example from Kelmendi and Hamby (2022) 


"Important characteristics of participants, including age and other qualifying criteria"

(JBI Manual, 11.2.4)

The people of Kosovo and surrounding countries (this is also implicit in the context in our example) 


"The core concept examined by the scoping review should be clearly articulated to guide the scope and breadth of the inquiry. This may include details that pertain to elements that would be detailed in a standard systematic review, such as the "interventions" and/or "phenomena of interest" and/or "outcomes"" (JBI 11.2.4)

  • Resilience and health outcomes 

  • The wake of trauma and/or adversity 


"May include... cultural factors such as geographic location and/or specific racial or gender-based interests. In some cases, context may also encompass details about the specific setting." (JBI 11.2.4)

Kosovo and surrounding southeastern European countries 


From this framework and our objective, our question could become

"What literature exists on resilience and health outcomes after trauma in Kosovo and neighboring countries, and what are the implications of that literature?" 

For more information on applying PCC to your scoping review idea, see: 


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