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The Ohio State University

Health Sciences Library


Clinical Background Questions

Medical textbooks and similar resources are most useful for answering background questions. These questions are general in nature, and answering them provides the necessary foundation for making decisions about patient care. Some examples of background questions include: 

  • What is erythema nodosum?
  • What is the standard treatment for chronic suppurative otitis media?
  • What is the epidemiology of pseudotumor cerebri?

The library resources listed below contain many ebooks and other information appropriate for answering a background question.  You can also search directly in the library catalog for textbooks.

Clinical Background Resources

Clinical Foreground Questions

Journal articles make up a large part of the literature of medicine, and we typically turn to the journal literature when looking to answer a clinical foreground question. Foreground questions are more specific than background questions and are typically focused on a specific patient or population.  A good clinical question is specific, searchable, and answerable. The acronym PICO is often used as a framework for asking clinical questions.

= patient, problem, population

I  = intervention

C = comparison intervention

O = outcomes