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AHRQ--Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Advancing Excellence in Health Care
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Education Modules Provide Instruction to New Researchers on Reviewing Evidence

Instructor teaching a class.Increasing interest for comparative effectiveness research has created the need to expand the Nation’s capacity to conduct systematic reviews. To help train new generations of researchers in the methods used to conduct these reviews, the Effective Health Care (EHC) Program recently contracted with four Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs) to create training modules based on chapters from the EHC Program Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews. Composed of PowerPoint® presentations, case examples, and linkages to other references and tools, the modules have now been posted on the EHC Program Web site for use free of charge.

In addition to their use by faculty within the EPCs to mentor and teach new investigators, the training modules are also available to (1) investigators interested in the self-study of systematic review methods for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, and (2) instructors who teach clinical researchers and students about the systematic review process in graduate training programs around the globe. A slide library allows faculty to select a complete set of lecture slides by topic or to create their own presentation by mixing and matching slides.

Thirteen education modules, along with an introductory slide set written by AHRQ officers Stephanie Chang, M.D., M.P.H., and Elizabeth Kato, M.D., M.R.P., take researchers who are unfamiliar with the systematic review process through a series of steps from topic refinement to reporting review results. The introductory module introduces future researchers to the goals of the EHC Program, the many partners and stakeholders involved in the Program, and the key terms and concepts of the Program. Most importantly, a conceptual model of the EHC systematic review process is presented for the AHRQ systematic review process. The slides and lecture notes in the introductory module explain confusing terminology such as subtle differences between “systematic review,” “effectiveness review,” and “comparative effectiveness review,” as well as the role of the PICO typology (or framework) used in systematic reviews. PICO stands for the four elements to be considered when developing the overarching questions of the review: Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome. Two other elements — Timing and Setting (or Study Design) — are sometimes added, with the term PICOTS used instead.

The five EPCs responsible for the modules — RTI International–University of North Carolina, Tufts New England Medical Center, Vanderbilt University, the University of Connecticut-Hartford Hospital, and the University of Ottawa — developed a research protocol and conceptual model of the EHC Program systematic review process to guide the creation of the modules. Each module was then peer-reviewed by five experts in the field to ensure quality and consistency with the Methods Guide and other relevant literature, and edited by staff at the John M. Eisenberg Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science.