Methodology and reporting quality of reporting guidelines: systematic review

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2015 Sep 22;15:74. doi: 10.1186/s12874-015-0069-z.


Background: With increasing attention put on the methodology of reporting guidelines, Moher et al. conducted a review of reporting guidelines up to December 2009. Information gaps appeared on many aspects. Therefore, in 2010, the Guidance for Developers of Health Research Reporting Guidelines was developed. With more than four years passed and a considerable investment was put into reporting guideline development, a large number of new, updated, and expanded reporting guidelines have become available since January 2010. We aimed to systematically review the reporting guidelines published since January 2010, and investigate the application of the Guidance.

Methods: We systematically searched databases including the Cochrane Methodology Register, MEDLINE, and EMBASE, and retrieved EQUATOR and the website (if available) to find reporting guidelines as well as their accompanying documents. We screened the titles and abstracts resulting from searches and extracted data. We focused on the methodology and reporting of the included guidelines, and described information with a series of tables and narrative summaries. Data were summarized descriptively using frequencies, proportions, and medians as appropriate.

Results: Twenty-eight and 32 reporting guidelines were retrieved from databases and EQUATOR network, respectively. Reporting guidelines were designed for a broad spectrum of types of research. A considerable number of reporting guidelines were published and updated in recent years. Methods of initial items were given in 45 (75%) guidelines. Thirty-eight (63%) guidelines reported they have reached consensus, and 35 (58%) described their consensus methods. Only 9 (15%) guidelines followed the Guidance.

Conclusions: Only few guidelines were developed complying with the Guidance. More attention should be paid to the quality of reporting guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medical Writing / standards*
  • Publishing / standards
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Research Report / standards*