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Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses


Registering and/or publishing your protocol increases the transparency of your research and the credibility of your results. It also 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. 

"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).

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

Review Protocols


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

Locating and registering protocols 

  • PROSPERO: International prospective register of systematic reviews (not scoping reviews)
  • figshare: a repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in a citableshareable and discoverable manner
  • OSF Registries: register your work to increase the rigor and transparency of your research. 

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.



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.


JBI update: "In order to continue to effectively process manuscripts to our quality standards, JBI Evidence Synthesis will introduce article processing charges for all protocols submitted on or after 5 January 2021. These charges will be USD$1000 for up to eight (8) typeset pages including appendices (approx. 500 words per page of text), and USD$100 for each additional typeset page.


Instructions for developing a protocol ​can be found in the JBI Manual for Evidence Syntheses.

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.

Collaboration of Environmental Evidence


Writing and registering a protocol

Locating CEE protocols

Environmental Evidence journal website

Example of a CEE systematic review protocol

Putman, B. J., & Blumstein, D. T. (2019). What is the effectiveness of using conspecific or heterospecific acoustic playbacks for the attraction of animals for wildlife management? A systematic review protocol. Environmental Evidence8(1), 6.

Example of a CEE systematic map protocol

Sordello, R., De Lachapelle, F. F., Livoreil, B., & Vanpeene, S. (2019). Evidence of the environmental impact of noise pollution on biodiversity: a systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence8(1), 8.


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.

Tool Spotlight

Introducing Methods Wizard (beta-version), a piece of software to assist with writing the protocol of systematic reviews.

This online tool prompts questions to the systematic review team to answer in order to build the methods section of a protocol. This format changes the focus from writing sentences to thinking about what is needed for the review. The generated protocol text can then be copy/pasted into a Word document and edited.