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Midwifery: Forming Questions

Explore library resources for the Midwifery program at McMaster.

A Good Question...

  • Focuses your information needs
  • Identifies key seach concepts
  • Points you in the direction of potential resources

Background Questions

These questions are general in nature and provide foundational information on a single concept. Background questions cover topics including:

  • Terminology
  • Health Promotion
  • General Drug Information
  • Midwifery Interventions


What are some examples of culturally rooted birthing practices?

What drugs are used to treat hypertension?

What types of education resources exist for mothers with gestational diabetes?

How is sepsis diagnosed?

What does fetal heartbeat sound like?

Answers to these questions may be found in text-book like resources, handbooks, manuals, and in resources providing overviews.

Online Resources

Foreground Questions

These questions bring together multiple concepts related to a specific clinical situation or research topic.  They are typically divided into two categories:

  • Qualitative Questions aim to discover meaning or gain an understanding of a phenomena.  They ask about an individual's or population's experience of certain situations or circumstances
  • Quantitative Questions often aim to discover cause and effect relationships by comparing two or more individuals or groups based on differing outcomes associated with exposures or interventions.

These questions are often best answered using the resources found in the 6S Pyramid.

Forming Foreground Questions

Building an effective foreground question can be challenging.  The following models will help:

Qualitative Questions: The PS Model

P - Patient/Population

S- Situation

How do/does ___[P]____ experience _____[S]_____?

Ex. How do mothers with a detailed birthplan experience deviations from this plan?


Quantitative Questions: The PI/ECO(T) Model

A quantitative approach can answer many different types of questions, but all can be formatted by following the PI/ECO(T) Model outlined below:     


PICO(T) Templates


In ___[P]___,  do/does ___[I]___ result in ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ over ___[T]____?

E.g.) In infants unable to latch for breastfeeding, does prompting through finger feeding result in a higher rate of latching when compared with prompting through bottle feeding over the first year of life?


Are ___[P]___  with  ___[I]___  over ____[T]____ more likely to ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ ?

E.g.) Are mothers given cesarian sections in their first pregnancy more likely to experience uterine rupture during subsequent pregnancies when compared with first time mothers giving vaginal birth?


Is/are ___[I]___ performed on ___[P]___   more effective than ___[C]___  over ___[T]____in ___[O]____?

E.g.) Is transvaginal ultrasound performed on expectant mothers more effective than laparoscopy  in diagnosing ectopic pregnancies?


In ___[P]___,  do/does ___[I]___ result in ___[O]____ when compared with ___[C]___ over ___[T]____?

E.g.) In women experiencing their first pregnancy, do pregnancy-tracking mobile apps result in fewer unneccesary hospital visits when compared with self-tracking over the course of the pregnancy?


Do/does ___[I]___ for/performed on ___[P]___   lead to  ___[O]___  over ___[T]____compared with ___[C]____?

E.g.) Do Mommy-and-Me programs for first time mothers  lead to quicker return to pre-pregnancy body image  over the first year of motherhood compared with no intervention?