The structure of research questions in randomized-controlled trials in rehabilitation field

Chiara Arienti*, Stefano G. Lazzarini, Michele Patrini, Livia Puljak, Alex Pollock, Stefano Negrini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to assess whether and how PICO format is described to frame research questions in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) looking at effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions.
A methodological study was conducted. RCTs in the rehabilitation field, published between July 1st, 2019 and December 31st, 2019 were included. The framing of the primary research question (RQ) from each trial was evaluated.
Ninety-seven RCTs were included in the analysis. The most frequent framing of the primary RQ was as an “objective” statement (55%) and in 33% of the articles this was stated as an “objective” together with a “hypothesis” description. All PICO elements were present in 55% of RQ, but only 49% have used the statement suggested by Cochrane. The results showed that the most frequent framing of primary RQ was “objective” using all PICO elements, but few articles followed the statement suggested by Cochrane to describe them.
our findings suggest that a specific item about the “research question” and the rationale that drove to the proposed design following the form suggested by Cochrane is included in the RCTRACK checklist.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2020

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