Over the last few years reporting guidelines for research papers have had increasing attention and use. They comprise recommendations and checklists, developed by expert groups consisting of researchers, methodologists and journal editors. They aim at ensuring the transparent description of research results. Following the CONSORT statement for the reporting of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), other reporting guidelines such as STARD for diagnostic accuracy studies, STROBE for observational studies and QUOROM for systematic reviews of RCTs have been published. This article discribes the concept of reporting guidelines for research reports and discusses searches of the international literature based on them. Selected reporting guidelines of particular interest are presented in detail. Nowadays, reporting guidelines exist for different areas of research and types of studies. The EQUATOR network (www.equator-network.org) offers a comprehensive overview. Other reporting guidelines are being prepared. It has been shown for some guidelines, in particular the CONSORT statement that they contribute to an improvement in reporting medical research. Existing guidelines should be assesed regularly for their timeliness and, if necessary, be updated. Reporting guidelines contribute to the improvement of the quality of medical research publications. They offer advice how to interpret and critically appraise the medical literature for authors but also for journal editors, reviewers and critical readers.
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