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Edward G. Miner Library

Nursing Research Guide: Clinical Question Types

Use this page to find resources to assist with nursing and evidence-based practice research projects.

Types of Clinical Questions

Clinical questions may be categorized as either background or foreground. Why is this important?

Determining the type of question will help you to select the best resource to consult for your answer.

Background questions ask for general knowledge about an illness, disease, condition, process or thing. These types of questions typically ask who, what, where, when, how & why about things like a disorder, test, or treatment, etc.

Background questions are best answered by medical textbooks, which are available from platforms such as AccessMedicine and ClinicalKey Nursing

Foreground questions ask for specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions. These questions typically concern a specific patient or particular population, and tend to be more specific and complex compared to background questions. Quite often, foreground questions investigate comparisons, such as two drugs, two treatments, two diagnostic tests, etc.

Foreground questions are best answered by consulting medical databases such as Medline (via PubMed or OvidSP), Cochrane Library, and CINAHL.

All of these resources are available from Miner Library and Williams Library; many are listed in the "Quick Links" section of the homepage.

You can also access an alphabetic list of Evidence-Based Resources at Miner's website, or a webpage of available Evidence-Based Health Care resources at Williams' website. 

It's useful to check the page for your workplace as some resources are only licensed for access at specific locations.

Branch Librarian at URMC

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Lorraine Porcello
Edward G. Miner Library & John R. Williams Health Sciences Library
(585) 276-3475 (ML); (585) 341-0378 (WHSL)