Background: Our objective was to develop an instrument to assess the methodological quality of systematic reviews, building upon previous tools, empirical evidence and expert consensus.
Methods: A 37-item assessment tool was formed by combining 1) the enhanced Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire (OQAQ), 2) a checklist created by Sacks, and 3) three additional items recently judged to be of methodological importance. This tool was applied to 99 paper-based and 52 electronic systematic reviews. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify underlying components. The results were considered by methodological experts using a nominal group technique aimed at item reduction and design of an assessment tool with face and content validity.
Results: The factor analysis identified 11 components. From each component, one item was selected by the nominal group. The resulting instrument was judged to have face and content validity.
Conclusion: A measurement tool for the 'assessment of multiple systematic reviews' (AMSTAR) was developed. The tool consists of 11 items and has good face and content validity for measuring the methodological quality of systematic reviews. Additional studies are needed with a focus on the reproducibility and construct validity of AMSTAR, before strong recommendations can be made on its use.