TABLE 5-1 Topics to Include in the Methods Section

Methods Topic


Research protocol

  • Rationale for deviations from the protocol in the conduct of the systematic review (SR)

  • Registration number (if applicable)

Eligibility criteria (for including and excluding studies in the SR)

  • Research designs (trials, observational studies), patients, interventions, comparators, outcomes, length of follow-up

  • Report characteristics (e.g., publication period, language)

  • Rationale for each criterion

Analytic framework and key questions

  • A diagram illustrating the chain of logic describing the mechanism by which the intervention could improve a health outcome

  • Key questions written in a structured format (e.g., PICO[TS])

Databases and other information sources

  • All sources of information about potentially eligible articles (including contact with study authors)

  • Date of last search

Search strategy

  • Electronic search strategy for at least one database, including any limits used and the date of searches (include all search strategies in an electronic appendix)

Study selection

  • Process for screening studies, including the number of individual screeners and their qualifications

  • Process for resolving differences among screeners

Data extraction

  • Process for extracting data from included studies, including the data collection form, number of individual data extractors and their qualifications, and whether more than one person independently extracted data from the same study

  • Process for resolving differences among extractors

Missing information

  • Researchers contacted, information requested, and success of requests

Information to be extracted

  • All variables for which data were sought (e.g., PICO[TS])

  • Any assumptions made about missing and unclear data

Appraisal of individual studies

  • Description of how risk of bias was assessed

  • Description of how the relevance of the studies to the populations, interventions, and outcome measures was assessed

  • Description of how the fidelity of the implementation of interventions was assessed

Summary measures

  • Principal summary measures (e.g., risk ratio, difference in means)

Data pooling across studies

  • Rationale for pooling decision

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