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What kind of question are you trying to answer?

To begin a search for research evidence, it is important to determine what questions are involved in order to find the best course of action for the current clinical case. Clinical questions can be classified as either background or foreground questions; figuring out the type of question you are answering is important in order to determine the type(s) of resources you should consult to answer the question.

Background questions are general knowledge questions about conditions, treatments, or diagnostics. These questions are generally "who, what, why, how" questions.

Example background question: What are the symptoms of congestive heart failure in cats?

Foreground questions are questions that seek to answer specific clinical questions. These questions generally deal with clinical areas such as diagnosis, etiology, harm, prognosis, or therapy/intervention.

Example foreground question: In cats with naturally occurring chronic kidney disease, does a renal prescription diet compared to normal diet increase the survival time of affected cats?*

*Question from Best BETS for Vets


Practicing evidence-based veterinary medicine requires that clinicians:

  1. Develop good, relevant clinical questions.
  2. Locate the best available research evidence to answer those clinical questions.
  3. Evaluate and appraise the research evidence retrieved for quality, validity, and applicability to the clinical questions.
  4. Integrate the best available research evidence with the clinician's own clinical expertise and the client's preferences and values.


This guide is intended to help students and clinicians develop clinical questions and find and evaluate available research evidence.

 three parts of evidence-based medicine (best research evidence, clinical experience, and patient preferences)

The original content of this research guide was created by Chairity Waugh.

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