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PaCE : Resources


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Leslie Christensen

What is a Foreground Question?

Foreground questions are clinical questions that focus on the care of a specific patient or population and generally require a search of the primary medical literature and are best suited for the PICO (Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) framework.

To answer these questions, search for high quality systematic reviews/meta-analyses and work your way down the evidence pyramid. See The Evidence Hierarchy for more information on levels of evidence. 

Systematic Reviews

These sources are databases of systematic reviews, which combine similar studies to produce evidence-based recommendations and conclusions. 

Primary Literature

For primary literature, search PubMed or other literature databases. 

Largest North-American health journal databases that indexes 5000+ health journals from 1950 to now.

PubMed Clinical Queries
‚ÄčA specialized search box within PubMed for finding articles on clinical topics.

Health Sciences Databases List (Ebling Library)
A comprehensive list of health sciences databases available to you through UW-Madison.

Google Scholar
Restricts the results of a Google search to scholarly literature from governmental units, websites, academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

Federated Search Engines

These resources provide access to a variety of types information like primary research, review articles, and guidelines about clinical topics. 


These sites are sources of guidelines by major associations and the U.S. Government.

What is a Background Question?

Background questions concern general knowledge. These types of questions generally have only 2 parts: A question root (who, what, when, where, how, why) and a disorder, test, treatment, or other aspect of health care.  Often these questions can best be answered by using a textbook or consulting a clinical database, such as UpToDate or DynaMed.

Clinical Databases/Point of Care

These sources provide information about signs/symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of medical conditions.

Review Articles (Clinical)

These sources all have review articles that provide evidence-based summaries about medical conditions, including clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment.

Public/Consumer Websites

These sources are credible sources that can be used by the general public to find information about health and medical conditions.