Core outcome sets and systematic reviews

Syst Rev. 2016 Jan 20:5:11. doi: 10.1186/s13643-016-0188-6.


Systematic reviews seek to bring together research evidence to answer the question for the review. The reviewers usually wish to compare, contrast and, if appropriate, combine the findings of the existing research studies. However, these intentions are often thwarted by inconsistencies in the outcomes that were measured and reported in the individual studies. This, in turn, makes it difficult for readers of the review to use it to make informed decisions and choices about health and social care. One solution is for trials in a particular topic area to measure and report a standardised set of outcomes, which would then be used in the review. Core outcome sets are a means of doing this, providing an agreed standardised collection of outcomes for measuring and reporting for a specific area of health. In this commentary, we argue for greater involvement of systematic reviewers in the development and implementation of core outcome sets. This might help with, for example, the selection of outcomes to include in the Summary of findings tables that provide users of the review with the key quantitative findings. Consideration of core outcome sets when reviewers register their topics with Cochrane Review Groups or in PROSPERO would also help reviewers to plan their reviews. A greater uptake of core outcome sets across research, including systematic reviews, would help towards the ultimate aim of improving health and well-being through improving health and social care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Review Literature as Topic*