When publishing your systematic review it is important to clearly report all aspects of the review process so that readers can assess whether the methodologies used are sound and the interpretation is valid. As with any type of research, systematic reviews and meta-analyses are susceptible to bias, and it is only through clear reporting of what was done that it is possible to assess this risk of bias. Recommendations for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of preclinical studies can be found in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Guidelines for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of animal studies (Sena et al 2014)
|Title||Identify the report as a systematic review and/or meta-analysis of animal experiments|
|Abstract||Provide a structured abstract covering: objectives, data sources, review methods, results and conclusion|
|Introduction||Clearly defined and focussed research question|
|Protocol||Indicate if a protocol exists and where it can be found (i.e. web address)|
|Searching||Describe the information sources in detail, including keywords, search strategy, any restrictions and special efforts to include all available data|
|Selection||Describe the inclusion and exclusion criteria|
|Validity & Quality Assessment||Describe the criteria and process used to assess validity|
|Data Abstraction||Describe whether aggregate data or individual animal data are abstracted|
|Study Characteristics||Describe the study characteristics relevant to your research question|
|Quantitative Data Synthesis||Describe the principal measures of effect, method of combining results, handling of missing data; how statistical heterogeneity was assessed; and any assessment of publication bias—all in enough detail to allow replication|
|Flow Chart||A meta-analysis profile summarising study flow giving total number of experiments in the meta-analysis|
|Study Characteristics||Descriptive data for each experiment|
|Quantitative Data Synthesis||Present simple summary results (e.g. forest plot); identify sources of heterogeneity, impact of study quality and publication bias|
|Discussion||Summarise the main findings; discuss limitations; provide general interpretation of the results in the context of other findings, and implications for future research|
|Funding||Describe sources of funding for the review and other support. The role of funders should be presented|
|Conflict of Interest||Any potential conflicts of interests should be reported|
PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) is an evidence-based set of items for reporting clinical systematic reviews and meta-analyses, it also contains information relevant to preclinical reviews. The extended checklist and additional items can be found here.
Further reporting guidelines and links to other resources relevant to research reporting can be found through the EQUATOR network, a library that contains a comprehensive searchable database.
We encourage publishing your systematic review in an open access journal. After publication, the data underlying your review can be made available for use in secondary analyses or as part of an updated review. Read our Data Management and Sharing Policy here and contact us regarding data sharing and re-using meta-data. We recommend that you include a statement in your final publication regarding the impact of your results on the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for animal use in research.
Updating your review:
As research progresses and new primary studies are published, your review will likely need updating. Therefore it is strongly recommended that you keep clear and concise electronic and/or paper records of your search, decisions regarding inclusion criteria, and data extraction, so that this can be repeated in future if necessary.
For more detailed information on when your review needs updating and how best to go about it, see Moher et al 2008.
References & Resources:
Sena et al (2014) Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis of Preclinical Studies: Why Perform Them and How to Appraise Them Critically
Moher et al 2008 When and how to update systematic reviews
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