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Systematic Reviews


step 3 writing a protocol

Depending on what type of systematic review you are undertaking and also the subject discipline you are working in, it may not be appropriate that you complete this step. However, the principles contained in this step are worthwhile even if you do not need to write and submit a protocol to ensure that your systematic review is as robust as it can be before you embark on your research. If you are unsure if you should write and submit a protocol, please talk to your supervisor.
Protocol overview

What is a protocol? 

Protocol guidance can be found in PRISMA P statement (medicine and health-related disciplines) or from ROSES (environmental science related disciplines).

Take a look at the following for further information:

Your protocol needs to include the following and its aim is to keep your SR on track and focused.

  1. Rationale / conceptual discussion of problem (background info)
  2. The review question (s) and objective (s)
  3. Search strategy
  4. Study selection criteria
  5. Study quality assessment
  6. Data extraction procedure
  7. Data synthesis procedure
  8. Project timetable

Where do I register it?

  • PROSPERO - International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews. Registration is free and open to anyone undertaking systematic reviews of the effects of interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions, for which there is a health related outcome.
Why write a protocol?

The benefits of a protocol

  • Raises awareness of the review
  • Promotes a systematic rather than ad hoc approach to the review
  • ​Provides a public record of planned methods - reduces risk of bias
  • ​Facilitates communication with others and promotes consistency between review team members
  • ​​Tracks use and impact of published reviews
  • ​Permanent record whether final report published or not