The preparation of a protocol is an important step in conducting a high-quality systematic review. The protocol ensures that a systematic review is carefully planned and that what is planned is explicitly documented before the review starts. It promotes
The protocol allows you to describe the purpose of your review, what your hypothesis is and how you plan to conduct the review. Planning provides an opportunity for your team to anticipate potential problems, which may reduce arbitrary decisions throughout the process.
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. Systematic Reviews, 4(1), 1. http://doi.org/10.1186/2046-4053-4-1
A well-planned systematic review may be more likely to be completed, adhere to guidelines and reach publication.
When systematic review protocols are made publicly and permanently available, readers can identify any deviations from the planned methodology and whether these deviations may have biased the review's results and conclusions. "Bias related to the selective reporting of outcomes has been characterized as a serious problem in clinical research, including systematic reviews." (Moher et al., 2015)
Registering your protocol also
PROSPERO is an international database of prospectively registered systematic reviews in health and social care. PROSPERO enables permanent documentation of a review's design and planned methodology.
A key aim of PROSPERO is to reduce unplanned duplication of reviews, and promote efficient use of resources.
Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting.
It is essential to register your interest in writing a review with the Cochrane Review Group responsible for publishing reviews in your area of interest.
New Cochrane protocols are automatically added to PROSPERO.
The Campbell Collaboration (C2) is an international research network that produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions. C2 helps people make well-informed decisions by preparing, maintaining and disseminating systematic reviews in education, crime and justice, social welfare and international development.
C2's Resource Center contains information on producing a Campbell Collaboration systematic review.
As with systematic reviews, it is important to prepare a protocol when conducting a scoping review.