Writing the Protocol
A protocol should be prepared before a review is started and used as a guide to carry out the review.
The research protocol is a planning document that will:
- describe the rationale for the review
- set out the review objectives
- detail the sources and search strategy used to locate studies
- detail how studies will be selected based on the defined eligibility criteria for inclusion/exclusion of studies
- detail how the studies will be critically analysed
The aim of the protocol is to minimise bias by having pre-defined eligibility criteria of what will, and will not, be included in the review.
The protocol is developed in conjunction with determining search terms.
A protocol promotes research integrity, accountability, and transparency of the completed review.
It is recommended that you use a standard such as the 27 item PRISMA checklist to develop your protocol. This document will then serve well as a guide to what should be included when the findings of the systematic review are reported.
What is PRISMA?
PRISMA is the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses. PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.