Getting involved as a Review Author: If you have expertise in some aspect of healthcare, consider joining the relevant Cochrane Review Group. If there is not yet a group which covers your specialty, register your interest in being part of a new group. Being part of a Cochrane review group provides the support, resources and training to tackle a systematic review, and an international audience when your work is published in The Cochrane Library.
- Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions - the official guide to producing Cochrane reviews
- RevMan web page - documentation and support for software for preparing and maintaining Cochrane reviews
- GRADEpro - (GRADEprofiler) is the software used to create Summary of Findings (SoF) tables in Cochrane systematic reviews
- Cochrane Style Resource - compare your Cochrane Review against the official style guide
- Using Individual Patient Data - Power Point slides
- Re-publishing of reviews - explanation of procedures and permission form if you wish to re-publish your review in another scientific journal
- Reporting Guidelines
CONSORT - reporting of RCTs
PRISMA (formerly QUOROM) [PDF document] - preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
STROBE - reporting of observational studies in epidemiology
EQUATOR Network - collection of reporting guidelines
- Cochrane Diagnostic Test Accuracy Group
- Submission deadlines - includes information on deadlines for Copy Edit Support and module/CENTRAL submissions, as well as publication dates for The Cochrane Library
Training - face-to-face
Training - online
- Open Learning Materials - learn the steps in convenient online modules which supplement the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook in helping you gain skills and complete your review.
Training resources provided by other organizations:
- Undertaking Systematic Reviews of Research on Effectiveness - an extensive guide by the NHS Centre for Reviews & Dissemination
Methods used in reviews
The following paragraphs address issues which arise regularly in reviews dealt with by the CDPLPG. They are not designed to be used instead of guidance supplied by the Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions nor to replace sound review-specific advice from editors and/or others with relevant expertise.The Group's Specialised Register can be searched on CENTRAL on the Cochrane Library by using the term 'SR-BEHAV'.
Access to specialised register by reviewers
The Group's Specialised Register can be searched on CENTRAL on the Cochrane Library by using the term 'SR-BEHAV'.
Additional search strategies
Additional search strategies
As well as searching the Specialised Register, reviewers are advised to conduct additional searches. This would include searching other relevant bibliographic databases, citation searching, personal contact with experts in the area, etc. Reviewers should contact the Trials Search Co-ordinator for advice about this.
Generally speaking the editorial group expect the inclusion of studies to be confined to controlled clinical trials and randomised controlled trials. However, the scope of the group is such that there may be problems where interventions are difficult to evaluate using experimental methodology and in these cases reviewers are asked to make the case for extending inclusion criteria to other forms of study design in the development of the protocol.
The group requires the inclusion criteria developed for a review to be applied independently by at least two reviewers for each potentially relevant study. Disagreements that cannot easily be resolved are referred to a third person, and/or a member of the editorial team. Studies that, in the judgement of the reviewers, are seriously compromised by weaknesses in design, conduct or analysis are excluded. Details of such studies are reported in the excluded studies table within reviews.
Assessment of methodological quality
The editorial team is still in the process of developing policies which it considers appropriate to the preparation of systematic reviews in those areas which fall within its scope. Its core policy position is that detailed in the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook 5.0 [updated September 2008].
The policy of the CDPLPG is that all reviewers should develop a data extraction sheet tailored to their own reviews (samples available from the editorial base). At least two reviewers should extract data independently for each review. In the event the report of a trial lacks relevant information (method of randomisation, data) authors should be contacted for further details. Reviewers should seek help from the editorial base in contacting authors if this proves difficult.
Core guidance is available in the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook 5.0 [updated September 2008]. The group is currently considering additional guidance to address issues arising for reviewers working in this area.
Reporting of reviews
A potential reviewer is required to submit a title registration form to the Managing Editor, following discussion with a designated editor from within the editorial team. In circumstances where a title falls outside the content expertise of the editorial team, an external opinion may be sought on the feasibility and/or relevance of a title. Prospective authors are asked to nominate field experts when appropriate. It is essential that authors secure the services of a statistician to assist in the review process.
The editorial team will take responsibility for ensuring that no one else has registered to do a review on the particular topic elsewhere within the Collaboration. When accepted by the editorial base, the Managing Editor will inform other Review Groups, to ensure no duplication of effort. If more than one person proposes to do the same review the Managing Editor will attempt to establish a collaboration between the parties, and will arbitrate in the case of disagreements. Authors are asked to indicate when they anticipate completion of the protocol at the time they submit their title. Authors not submitting a draft protocol within 3 months may lose their title. One editor within the team will assume primary responsibility for overseeing the review. Where possible this 'mentor' is someone familiar with the area, but the main contribution of the mentoring process is largely methodological. This person will be the contact person for the review team.
The author next submits a protocol to the editorial base in RevMan 5 format through the Collaboration's Information Management System, Archie (http://archie.cochrane.org), generally within three months from the submission of the title. An expected date of completion of the review must be provided.
Internal review of protocols: completed protocols are seen by members of the Editorial Team, but one editor is designated the "assigned editor" for each particular title. In addition, all protocols will be reviewed by one of the group's statistical advisors. This internal review process should take no longer than three weeks and may include routine copy-editing by the Managing Editor (all revisions to be checked with the primary author). The process of developing a protocol is an iterative one, and protocols may undergo several drafts before publication. Authors (particularly inexperienced ones) should not be put off by the process -- the end product will be worth it.
External review of protocols: once the comments of the editorial team have been acted upon, the protocol is sent for external review. External reviewers are selected on the basis of either content expertise and/or methodological expertise. External reviewers are asked to comment in a structured way, using a checklist adapted by the Group for this purpose, and to respond within three-four weeks of receiving the protocol. Authors are welcome to seek additional external peer review. When the review team has acted upon the advice of the external reviewer(s) the protocol will be published in the next possible issue of the Cochrane Library. Disagreements between the editorial team and the authors, or between the authors themselves, about the content of their protocol, should be resolved by discussion, with arbitration from the Co-ordinating Editor.
Protocols and reviews are submitted four times a year. In order for a protocol or review to be submitted for publication, six weeks must be allowed so that comments from external reviewers (if substantial) may be addressed.
The review team then submits a review to the editorial base in RevMan 5 format through the Collaboration's Information Management System, Archie (http://archie.cochrane.org), generally within 12 months from submission of the protocol. A permission to publish form and a Declaration of Interest form must accompany the review, signed by all authors. Disagreements between reviewers about authorship of a review should be resolved by discussion with the Co-ordinating Editor.
Internal review: completed reviews are seen by all members of the editorial team. Two editors have designated responsibility for providing feedback, via the editorial mentor. This process is expected to take between four and six weeks. Copy-editing at the editorial base will follow the same pattern as for protocols.
External review: once the reviewers have responded to comments from the editorial team, the revised review is sent for external peer review to a minimum of two referees. Where possible and/or appropriate, external reviewers will be those who peer-reviewed the protocol. They are asked to make an assessment of the review in accordance with the pro-forma recommended in the Cochrane Handbook. They may be asked to pay particular attention to issues arising from the process of internal review, or where there is disagreement with that feedback within the review team. External reviewers are asked to provide a report within six weeks of receipt of the review. Disagreements between the editorial team and the authors, or between the authors themselves, about the content of their review, should be resolved by discussion, with arbitration from the Co-ordinating Editor.
Authors are expected to update their reviews every two years. Search updates from CENTRAL will be provided from the CRG on an annual basis to let reviewers know if new studies are available; other searches will be available on request.
A review which becomes substantially out-of-date will be subject to editorial review with a view to removal from CDSR. Prior to this, authors will be informed that this is about to happen, and given the opportunity to bring the review up-to-date.
Authors are asked to respond as quickly as possible in response to comments and/or criticisms. These will be channelled to the reviewers via the Criticisms Editor, and an editor within the editorial group will have designated responsibility to co-ordinate the response to the criticism.
Updated reviews will be subject to routine copy-editing at the CRG as well as peer review within the editorial group, where a decision will be taken as to whether or not external review is desirable or necessary. This will depend on i) whether the update comprises a substantive revision, and/or ii) whether or not amendments have been made in response to a major criticism, or a criticism in a disputed area. Disagreements between the editorial team and the authors, or between the authors themselves, about issues regarding the update of their reviews (whether occasioned by new data or by criticisms) should be resolved by discussion, with potential arbitration from UK Cochrane Centre.