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Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses

Introduction

"Systematic reviews should build on a protocol that describes the rationale, hypothesis, and planned methods of the review. Detailed, well-described protocols can facilitate the understanding and appraisal of the review methods, as well as the detection of modifications to methods and selective reporting in completed reviews" (Moher, 2015).

Registering and/or publishing your protocol increases transparency in the review process and informs the research community that you intend to conduct a review on a particular topic to avoid duplicate efforts. Protocols are most commonly developed for systematic reviews, meta-analyses, mixed-method reviews and scoping reviews. 

Reviews conducted under the auspices of international collaborations (i.e. Cochrane, the Joanna Briggs Institute, and the Campbell Collaboration) require reviewers to register new titles and develop a protocol.

Review Protocols (Not Affiliated with International Collaborations)

  • Guidelines:

Moher, D., Shamseer, L., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., ... & Stewart, L. A. (2015). Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Syst Rev, 4(1), 1.

PRISMA-P Checklist

  • Protocol registries:

PROSPERO (International prospective register of systematic reviews)

Examples of review protocols

  • Quantitative review protocols: (Notice that the registered protocol provides less information than the published protocol)

Zhang, Q., Yue, J., Zeng, X., Sun, Z., & Golianu, B. (2016). Acupuncture for chronic neck pain: a systematic review. PROSPERO 2015:CRD42015017178.

Zhang, Q., Yue, J., Zeng, X., Sun, Z., & Golianu, B. (2016). Acupuncture for chronic neck pain: a protocol for an updated systematic review. Systematic Reviews, 5(1), 1.

  • Qualitative review protocol (published):

Bazzano, A. N., Kaji, A., Felker-Kantor, E., Saldanha, L., & Mason, J. (2016). Family experiences of infant and young child feeding in lower-income countries: protocol for a systematic review of qualitative studies. Systematic reviews, 5(1), 109.

  • Mixed-methods review protocol (published):

O'Brien, T. D., Noyes, J., Spencer, L. H., Kubis, H. P., Hastings, R. P., Edwards, R. T., ... & Whitaker, R. (2014). ‘Keep fit’exercise interventions to improve health, fitness and well‐being of children and young people who use wheelchairs: mixed‐method systematic review protocol. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(12), 2942-2951.

  • Scoping review protocol (published):

Crick, M., Angus, D. E., & Backman, C. (2018). Exploring the role of regulation and the care of older people with depression living in long-term care? A systematic scoping review protocol. BMJ open, 8(7), e021985.

Cochrane

  • Guidelines:

Protocol for a Cochrane Review - Standard

  • Locating protocols for Cochrane Reviews:

Note that all protocols for Cochrane Reviews of interventions and of diagnostic test accuracy published from 1 October 2013 onwards are being automatically added to PROSPERO

You can also find protocols for Cochrane Reviews by doing a topical search in Cochrane Library (via the Wiley interface), and then select the tab for Cochrane Protocols as shown below.

 

Examples of Cochrane protocols 

  • Quantitative review protocol (intervention):

Asma, S., J, J. R., Trevor, C., Daniel, P., John, N., & Paula, G. (2014). Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, chemoradiotherapy and combination therapy in localised and locally advanced pancreatic cancer. Cochrane database of systematic reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011044.

  • Quantitative review protocol (diagnostic):

Selvan, G. K., & R, D. B. (2015). Diagnostic accuracy of different imaging modalities following computed tomography (CT) scanning for assessing the resectability with curative intent in pancreatic and periampullary cancer. Cochrane database of systematic reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011515.

Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI)

  •  Guidelines:
  • Locating JBI review protocols:

Review protocols can be located in the JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports by doing a topical search and then limiting to the Publication Type of "Systematic Review Protocols."

Examples of JBI review protocols

  • Qualitative review protocol:

Sheach-Leith, V., & Stephen, A. I. (2016). The experiences and support needs of adult family members who face a sudden adult death: a qualitative systematic review protocol. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 14(2), 93-105.

  • Quantitative review protocol (intervention):

Wosinski, J., Cordier, S. B., Bachmann, A. O., Gagnon, M. P., & Kiszio, B. (2016). Effectiveness of nurse‐led healthy aging strategies for older adults living in the community: a systematic review protocol. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 14(2), 5-15.

  • Scoping review protocol:

Coelho, A., Parola, V., Cardoso, D., Escobar, M., & Apóstolo, J. (2016). The use of non‐pharmacological interventions for the comfort of patients in palliative care: a scoping review protocol. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 14(2), 64-77.

The Campbell Collaboration

Example of a Campbell review protocol

  • Social welfare protocol:

Wollscheid, S., Fang, L., Nilsen, W., Smedslund, G., Steiro, A., Hammerstrøm, K. T., & Larun, L. (2014). Effect of early, brief computerized interventions on risky alcohol and cannabis use among young people: protocol for a systematic review.

Bibliography

Booth, A., M. Clarke, et al. (2012). The nuts and bolts of PROSPERO: an international prospective register of systematic reviews. Syst Rev 1(1): 1-9.

Moher, D., Shamseer, L., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., ... & Stewart, L. A. (2015). Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statementSyst Rev4(1), 1.