BOX 5-1

Recommended Standards for Reporting Systematic Reviews

Standard 5.1 Prepare the final report using a structured format

Required elements:


Include a report title*


Include an abstract*


Include an executive summary


Include a summary written for the lay public


Include an introduction (rationale and objectives)*


Include a methods section. Describe the following:

  • Research protocol*

  • Eligibility criteria (criteria for including and excluding studies in the sysematic review)*

  • Analytic framework and key questions

  • Databases and other information sources used to identify relevant studies*

  • Search strategy*

  • Study selection process*

  • Data extraction process*

  • Methods for handling missing information*

  • Information to be extracted from included studies*

  • Methods to appraise the quality of individual studies*

  • Summary measures of effect size (e.g., risk ratio, difference in means)*

  • Rationale for pooling (or not pooling) results of included studies

  • Methods of synthesizing the evidence (qualitative and meta-analysis*)

  • Additional analyses, if done, indicating which were prespecified*


Include a results section. Organize the presentation of results around key questions. Describe the following (repeat for each key question):

  • Study selection process*

  • List of excluded studies and reasons for their exclusion*

  • Appraisal of individual studies’ quality*

  • Qualitative synthesis

  • Meta-analysis of results, if performed (explain rationale for doing one)*

  • Additional analyses, if done, indicating which were prespecified*

  • Tables and figures


Include a discussion section. Include the following:

  • Summary of the evidence*

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