The objective of the 'Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy' (STARD) initiative is to improve the reporting of studies of diagnostic accuracy, so as to allow readers to assess the potential for bias in a study and to evaluate the generalibility of its results. The group searched the literature to identify publications on the appropriate conduct and reporting of diagnostic studies. This was used to draw up a list of potential items. During a consensus meeting, a group of researchers, medical journal editors, and members of professional organisations reduced this list to a usable checklist. Wherever possible, evidence from the literature was used to justify the decisions made. The search for published guidelines about diagnostic research yielded 33 previously published checklists, from which a list of 75 potential items was extracted. At the consensus meeting, participants shortened the list to a 25-item checklist. A generic flow diagram was drawn up to provide guidance on the method for including patients, the order in which tests were to be conducted and the number of patients to undergo the test being evaluated, the reference standard, or both. A scientific publication can only be assessed when the reporting is both correct and complete. Use of the checklist and flow diagram will improve the quality of reports produced, to the advantage of clinicians, researchers, reviewers, journal editors and other interested parties.