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Systematic Reviews: Designing the Protocol

High-quality systematic reviews are designed to identify all relevant published and unpublished evidence and provide an unbiased synthesis of the findings.

Tool to help you plan the Protocol

PRISMA-P:  a checklist of items you should include in your protocol.

IOM Standard 2.6 for Systematic Reviews Protocols a short checklist and explanation of protocol items

MECIR Standards for Protocols  standards that Cochrane reviews must adhere to. Even if you're not doing a Cochrane review, there is helpful guidance in the section on "Developing the Protocol for the Review."

Registering Your Protocol

Elements in a Protocol

Developing a protocol before you begin will help you plan how you'll conduct your systematic review. Many of the elements in the protocol will also be used in your final article. Your protocol should should specify:

  • the rationale for your systematic review,
  • specify your research question in detail (PICO, study design, setting, time-frame) 
  • the information sources you'll search
  • the inclusion/exclusion criteria you'll use to select studies
  • how you'll manage the records, extract data, assess risk of bias, synthesize data, and grade the evidence