Study flow diagrams in Cochrane systematic review updates: an adapted PRISMA flow diagram

Syst Rev. 2014 May 29;3:54. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-3-54.


Cochrane systematic reviews are conducted and reported according to rigorous standards. A study flow diagram must be included in a new review, and there is clear guidance from the PRISMA statement on how to do this. However, for a review update, there is currently no guidance on how study flow diagrams should be presented. To address this, a working group was formed to find a solution and produce guidance on how to use these diagrams in review updates.A number of different options were devised for how these flow diagrams could be used in review updates, and also in cases where multiple searches for a review or review update have been conducted. These options were circulated to the Cochrane information specialist community for consultation and feedback. Following the consultation period, the working group refined the guidance and made the recommendation that for review updates an adapted PRISMA flow diagram should be used, which includes an additional box with the number of previously included studies feeding into the total. Where multiple searches have been conducted, the results should be added together and treated as one set of results.There is no existing guidance for using study flow diagrams in review updates. Our adapted diagram is a simple and pragmatic solution for showing the flow of studies in review updates.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Display / standards
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Publishing / standards
  • Review Literature as Topic*