The reporting of observational research studies in dermatology journals: a literature-based study

Arch Dermatol. 2010 May;146(5):534-41. doi: 10.1001/archdermatol.2010.87.


Objective: To assess the quality of reporting in observational studies in dermatology.

Data sources: Five dermatology journals-the Archives of Dermatology, the British Journal of Dermatology, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, and Acta Dermato-Venereologica.

Study selection: Cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies published as original articles during the period January 2005 through December 2007. Studies were identified with a literature search of PubMed combining the journal title and the term epidemiological studies (free text) and by hand searching all of the issues of each journal to identify relevant articles.

Data extraction: All articles were extracted by 2 reviewers independently using standardized checklists based on the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) recommendations.

Data synthesis: The number and proportion of reported STROBE items were analyzed for each article. The proportion of studies with good reporting for each item was also assessed.

Results: A total of 138 articles were included and analyzed. Reporting quality was very mixed. Key areas that were infrequently reported included sample size calculations (n = 10 [7%]), missing data (n = 8 [6%]), losses to follow-up (n = 17 [12%]), and statistical methods (n = 19 [14%]). Only 13 studies (9%) explained the role of funders in the research. The quality of reporting was similar across study designs for "critical" questions with the exception of reporting of participant details, which was better reported in cohort studies (96%) compared with cross-sectional (80%) and case-control (70%) studies.

Conclusions: It is difficult to judge the quality of dermatological research unless it is reported well. This study has identified a clear need to improve the quality of reporting of observational studies in dermatology. We recommend that dermatology journals adopt the STROBE criteria.

MeSH terms

  • Dermatology / methods*
  • Epidemiologic Research Design
  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Humans
  • Observation
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*