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

Authors Jin Y, Sanger N, Shams I, Luo C, Shahid H, Li G, Bhatt M, Zielinski L, Bantoto B, Wang M, Abbade LPF, Nwosu I, Leenus A, Mbuagbaw L, Maaz M, Chang Y, Sun G, Levine MAH, Adachi JD, Thabane L, Samaan Z

Received 25 October 2017

Accepted for publication 10 April 2018

Published 27 September 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 495—510


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Yanling Jin,1,* Nitika Sanger,2,* Ieta Shams,3,* Candice Luo,4,* Hamnah Shahid,5,* Guowei Li,1,* Meha Bhatt,1 Laura Zielinski,6 Bianca Bantoto,7 Mei Wang,1 Luciana PF Abbade,8 Ikunna Nwosu,4 Alvin Leenus,1 Lawrence Mbuagbaw,1 Muhammad Maaz,1 Yaping Chang,1 Guangwen Sun,1 Mitchell AH Levine,1,9 Jonathan D Adachi1,9 Lehana Thabane,1,9 Zainab Samaan1,10

1Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 2Department of Medical Science, Medical Sciences Graduate Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 3Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 4Faculty of Health Sciences, Bachelors of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 5Department of Arts and Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 6Department of Neuroscience, McMaster Integrative Neuroscience Discovery and Study, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 7Department of Science, Honours Integrated Sciences Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 8Department of Dermatology and Radiotherapy, Botucatu Medical School, Universidade Estadual Paulista, UNESP, São Paulo, Brazil; 9St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Canada; 10Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

*These authors contributed equally to this work

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: guidelines, adherence, review, CONSORT

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