Proposing and registering new reviews
Why write a review?
Many thousands of people from around the world contribute to Cochrane by writing Cochrane Reviews. Review teams, typically comprising clinicians and researchers, come together to address a particular topic by summarizing all the available evidence. A number of factors may motivate authors to undertake a systematic review. For example, reviews can be conducted in an effort to resolve conflicting evidence, to address questions of clinical uncertainty, to explore variations in practice or to highlight a need for further research, but the overarching aim in preparing a review is to help people make well-informed decisions about health care.
What’s the process for writing a review?
All Cochrane systematic reviews are first registered as titles with a Cochrane Review Group (CRG). Registering your title is important to prevent duplication of effort with other authors, and to make sure your topic is appropriate for a Cochrane review. There are 52 CRGs that each focus on a particular area of health. CRGs are coordinated by an editorial team who edit and publish completed reviews in the Cochrane Library. Unlike other journals, your CRG will provide support and advice throughout the review process.
- The author team chooses an available topic and registers a title with the appropriate CRG.
- Authors prepare a protocol and submit it to the CRG for peer review and publication.
- When the protocol has been approved, authors begin searching for studies and analysing their results.
- Authors prepare the final review report and submit it for peer review and publication.
- After the review is published, the authors continue to update it periodically.
What do I need to write a review?
It is essential that Cochrane Reviews be undertaken by more than one person. This ensures that tasks such as selection of studies for eligibility and data extraction can be performed by at least two people independently, increasing the likelihood that errors are detected. Where possible, review authors are encouraged to seek and incorporate the views of users, including consumers, clinicians and those from varying regions and settings in the development of protocols and reviews.
Skills and experience
Review teams should include content and methodology experts and have access to statistical experience as required. First-time review authors are encouraged to work with others who are experienced in the process of systematic reviews and to attend training events organized by Cochrane.
Necessary review team skills include:
- content knowledge
- the ability to formulate review questions and eligibility criteria, search for, select and assess the risk of bias of relevant studies
- basic statistical knowledge in order to extract appropriate data, conduct meta-analyses, interpret and discuss the results
- the ability to write a scientific report in English
There should be someone willing to act as a contact person for the review, and to provide project management and leadership within the team. Further details of the expectations of author teams can be found here: http://www.cochrane.org/editorial-and-publishing-policy-resource/managing-expectations
Time and commitment
All members should have a desire to be comprehensive and systematic, with keen attention to detail. They should be aware of their limitations, willing to receive advice, willing and able to see the review through to completion within a reasonable time frame, and prepared to keep the review up to date.
The timeline for writing and maintaining a review is flexible, but authors should be aware that Cochrane reviews take time, skills and resources beyond those generally required to complete other scholarly manuscripts. Writing a protocol can take 2 to 6 months, while writing a complete review can take 1 to 2 years, depending on the complexity of your topic and the time and resources available to your team.
How do I get started?
The steps you need to follow to propose a new review are outlined below. If you need assistance or are unsure how to proceed, contact your nearest Cochrane Centre.
1. Decide on your topic for a review.
- Topics should address a question of importance to consumers, health professionals and policy makers.
- See the Cochrane Handbook for advice on defining the topic for a review (Section 2.3.2)
2. Make sure your proposal does not duplicate any work already published or registered with Cochrane.
- Search the Cochrane Library for any published protocols or reviews related to your topic of interest.
- You can also search the Cochrane website 'Our evidence' section. This will identify published protocols and reviews, with links to the Cochrane Library, as well as the titles of reviews that have been registered and commenced, but do not yet have published protocols.
3. Identify a team of authors for your review. Cochrane Reviews must be undertaken by more than one person.
- Review teams should include people with expertise in the topic area being reviewed, and someone with experience in systematic review methodology.
- First-time review authors are encouraged to access Cochrane Training workshops and resources.
- Consider the requirements for author teams above, and see further information at http://www.cochrane.org/editorial-and-publishing-policy-resource/managing-expectations.
4. Identify the CRG that is most relevant to your topic of interest.
- Check the CRG website for details of the topics they cover and priorities for reviews of importance. Note that some CRGs will only accept new proposals in identified priority areas.
- If you are unsure which CRG relates to your topic of interest, check the 'Editorial Group' listed in the byline of other reviews on related topics in Cochrane Library.
5. Make contact with the CRG.
- Check the CRG website for details on how they prefer to be contacted by new authors. This is usually by email, or they may have an online form.
- Include as much detail as you can about your proposal, including your background and a description of what the review will address.
- All CRGs will ask you to complete a Title Registration Form. This form lets the group know the details of your proposed review, and the team you have put together. These forms are avaialble from the Review Group’s website or by emailing the Review Group.
6. Review proposals are accepted at the discretion of the CRG.
- There may be some discussion with the editors to clarify or change the scope of the proposed review before the title can be registered.
- When the title has been registered, you can start work on the protocol for your review. See the Cochrane Handbook for more information on writing a protocol (Chapter 2).