Quality standards for submission to the Central Editorial Service

For all submissions authors should ensure that:

Standards for protocols

The protocol must be prospectively registered and must clearly describe:

  • The review objectives (see MECIR standards PR5-PR8; C1-4)
  • The eligibility criteria for study types, study reports, participants and interventions and a clear justification for these criteria (see MECIR C5-C13; PR9-PR12)
  • The outcomes that will be considered, including the outcome measures and time points of interest (MECIR PR13-PR16)
  • The search methods used, including all sources that will be searched and any restrictions to be placed on the search (e.g. time period or publication format) (MECIR C19; PR17-21).
  • The methods that will be used for data collection and analysis, including how risk of bias will be assessed (MECIR PR22–PR40; C20-23). 

Standard for reviews

Reviews must be compliant with MECIR standards. Reviews with minor issues with reporting compliance may be considered for revision (at the discretion of the Central Editorial Service). Specifically:

  1. The PICO question (population(s), intervention(s), comparison(s) and outcomes) and, in particular, the nature and key elements of the interventions must be described such that the review could be replicated or acted on by the reader (MECIR R19-25 and R27-32).
  2. Searches for studies should be as extensive as possible in order to reduce the risk of publication bias and to identify as much relevant evidence as possible (MECIR C24-C38). Trials registers must have been searched (C27).
  3. The date of search must be within 12 months of the projected publication date (MECIR R33-38, C24-38).
  4. The risk of bias of evidence included in the review must be assessed by at least two people working independently (MECIR C52-60). The risk of bias 2 (RoB2) tool is recommended but not mandated.
  5. Data must have been analysed appropriately, accounting for any unit of analysis issues and avoiding other substantial data entry errors (MECIR C61-73).
  6. Results are fully reported and include a ‘Summary of findings’ table(s) which complies with MECIR criteria (MECIR R55; R98).
  7. Any changes to the conduct or methods of the review made since the protocol was developed have been outlined and justified (MECIR R107-108).
  8. The reporting of objectives, important outcomes, results, caveats and conclusions are consistent across all sections of the review (MECIR R87).
  9. GRADE quality ratings must be reported and used to inform interpretation whenever the findings of the review are described (Abstract, Plain language summary, Results, Discussion and Conclusions) (MECIR C74-75; R99)

Standard for updates

In addition to the ‘standards for reviews’:

  1. Updates in topic areas where significant changes in the field or methodology have occurred since the review was last published (for example, reviews published more than 5 years ago, or sooner in fast-moving fields) may require a new protocol. Please contact editorial-service@cochrane.org for if this affects a potential submission to talk through the details with the editorial team.