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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. 

 Best Practice Tip

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. 



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