Posing a Well-Built COPES Question and
Classifying It Into One of Five Question Types
The information contained in this website is copyrighted. It will appear
in the following book: Gibbs, L. (2003). Evidence-Based Practice for
the Helping Professions: A Practical Guide with Integrated Multimedia,
Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/ Cole an Imprint of Wadsworth Publishers.
Learning how to pose a clearly-formulated or well-built question (Armstrong,1999;
McKibbon, Richardson & Walker-Dilks, 1999; Richardson, 1998, Richardson,
Wilson, Nishikawa, & Hayward, 1995) constitutes the very first step
in most detailed descriptions of evidence-based practice (Sackett et al.,
Client Oriented Practical Evidence Search (COPES) questions come directly
from practice. COPES questions have three general features. First, they
are questions from daily practice, posed by practitioners, that really
matter to the clients welfaretheyre Client Oriented
(Here the word client refers to an individual, to a group
of clients, or to a community). They concern issues that are central to
the welfare of the client and to those whose lives are affected by the
client. Second, COPES questions have Practical importance in several
ways. They have practical significance if they concern problems
that arise frequently in everyday practice, if they concern the mission
of the agency, and if knowing the answer concerns something within the
realm of possibility; so knowing the answer could result in effective
use for their answer. Third, COPES questions are specific enough to guide
an electronic Evidence Search.
In order to be well-built
enough to guide an evidence search, a question should include elements
that are listed vertically in the table below. COPES questions generally
fall into five categories that are also listed in the table below. To
complete your COPES question, fill in the bottom boxes in the table below.
COPES Question Types and Four Corresponding Features of a Well-Built Question
Type and Problem
You Might Do
Course of Action
You Want to Accomplish
Four Elements In a Well-Formulated Question
Five Question Types
|How would I describe
a group of clients of similar type. Be specific.
||Apply a treatment;
act to prevent a problem; measure to assess a problem; survey clients;
screen clients to assess risk
||What is the main
alternative other than in the box to the left? Do nothing? Apply another
intervention? Apply another risk assessment scale?
||Outcome of treatment
or prevention? Valid measure? Accurate Risk Estimation, Prevented
Behavior, Accurate Estimation of Need
Effectiveness Q. (See above)
aged persons who reside in a nursing home Are given Reality Orientation
||Are given Reality
||Which will result
in Better Orientation to Time, Place, Person?
Prevention Q. (See above)
||If sexually active
high school students at high risk for pregnancy
||Are exposed to
||Or to Didactic
Material on Proper Use of Birth Control Methods
||Then will the
former have Fewer Pregnancies During an Academic Year, Knowledge of
Birth Control Methods, Use Birth Control Methods?
Assessment Q. (See above)
||If aged residents
of a nursing home who may be depressed or may have Alzheimers
Disease or Dementia
Depression Screening Tests
||Or a Short Mental
Status Examination Tests
||Which will measure
will be the Briefest, Most Inexpensive, Valid and Reliable Screening
Test to Discriminate Between Depression and Dementia?
|If family members
of persons diagnosed with Aphasia meet in a support group
||And receive a
Short Client Satisfaction Questionnaire of all support group participants
||Which will the
clients list as their area of Areas Of Greatest and Least Satisfaction?
Risk Q. (See above)
||If crisis line
callers to a battered women shelter
a risk assessment scale by telephone
||Or we rely on
practical judgment unaided by a risk assessment scale
||Then will the
Risk Assessment Scale have higher reliability and predictive validity
regarding Future Violence?
Elements of Your
Question in Spaces
This table follows
Sackett, D. L., Richardson, W. S., Rosenberg, W., & Haynes, R. B.
(1997). Evidence-based Medicine: How to practice and teach EBM.
New York: Churchill Livingstone. Adapted with permission.
to More Detailed Instructions for Posing COPES Questions