Does the medical literature remain inadequately described despite having reporting guidelines for 21 years? - A systematic review of reviews: an update

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2018 Sep 27:11:495-510. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S155103. eCollection 2018.


Purpose: Reporting guidelines (eg, Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials [CONSORT] statement) are intended to improve reporting standards and enhance the transparency and reproducibility of research findings. Despite accessibility of such guidelines, researchers are not required to adhere to them. Our goal was to determine the current status of reporting quality in the medical literature and examine whether adherence of reporting guidelines has improved since the inception of reporting guidelines.

Materials and methods: Eight reporting guidelines, such as CONSORT, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE), Quality of Reporting of Meta-analysis (QUOROM), STAndards for Reporting of Diagnostic accuracy (STARD), Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE), Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS), and Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) were examined. Our inclusion criteria included reviews published between January 1996 to September 2016 which investigated the adherence to reporting guidelines in the literature that addressed clinical trials, systematic reviews, observational studies, meta-analysis, diagnostic accuracy, economic evaluations, and preclinical animal studies that were in English. All reviews were found on Web of Science, Excerpta Medical Database (EMBASE), MEDLINE, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL).

Results: Among the general searching of 26,819 studies by using the designed searching method, 124 studies were included post screening. We found that 87.9% of the included studies reported suboptimal adherence to reporting guidelines. Factors associated with poor adherence included non-pharmacological interventions, year of publication, and trials concluding with significant results. Improved adherence was associated with better study designs such as allocation concealment, random sequence, large sample sizes, adequately powered studies, multiple authorships, and being published in journals endorsing guidelines.

Conclusion: We conclude that the level of adherence to reporting guidelines remains suboptimal. Endorsement of reporting guidelines by journals is important and recommended.

Keywords: CONSORT; adherence; guidelines; review.

Publication types

  • Review