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Developers of reporting guidelines

Development of reporting guidelines is a complex process that does not finish with the guideline publication. shutterstock_99052121The following resources highlight some of the important aspects of this process:

Reporting guideline development process

At present, there is no handbook on how to develop reporting guidelines. The EQUATOR Network has initiated work leading to the development of robust guidance for reporting guideline developers.

In February 2010 we published a paper “Guidance for developers of health research reporting guidelines“. It draws on extensive experience in the development of reporting guidelines and offers very practical guidance to scientists considering developing new guidelines or extending and updating existing guidance:

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Below is an example of a robust protocol for the development of reporting guidelines based on the above guidelines:

Other useful resources include:

  • Davidoff F, Batalden P, Stevens D, Ogrinc G, Mooney S. Publication guidelines for quality improvement in health care: evolution of the SQUIRE project. Qual Saf Health Care. 2008;17 Suppl 1:i3-i9. PMID:18836063
  • Boutron I, Moher D, Altman DG, Schulz K, Ravaud P, for the CONSORT group. Methods and Processes of the CONSORT Group: Example of an Extension for Trials Assessing Nonpharmacologic Treatments. Ann Intern Med. 2008:W60-W67. PMID: 18283201
  • Hopewell S, Clarke M, Moher D, Wager E, Middleton P, Altman DG, Schulz KF and the CONSORT Group (2008) CONSORT for reporting randomized controlled trials in journal and conference abstracts: explanation and elaboration. PLoS Med. 5(1): e20. PMID: 18215107
  • Simera I, Altman DG, Moher D, Schulz KF, Hoey J. Guidelines for reporting health research: the EQUATOR network’s survey of guideline authors. PLoS Med. 2008;5(6):e139. PMID: 18578566
  • von Elm E, Altman DG, Egger M, Pocock SJ, Gotzsche PC, Vandenbroucke JP. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement: Guidelines for Reporting Observational Studies. PLoS Med. 2007;4(10):e296. PMID: 17941714
  • Altman DG & Moher D. [Developing guidelines for reporting healthcare research: scientific rationale and procedures]. Medicina Clinica. 2005;125 (Suppl 1): 8-13. PMID: 16464421
  • CONSORT Statement – see ‘History

Reporting guideline publication and dissemination

Developers of reporting guidelines need to consider what may happen to their guideline after it is published – it could be considered for translation, adaptation or extension to apply to more specific conditions, the wording of the recommendations could be cut or shortened, etc.
It is therefore paramount that reporting guideline developers think about these possible scenarios before the first publication of the guideline and / or when creating a guideline website.

Considerations for reporting guideline publication

  • Published reporting guidelines need to be easily accessible to their users. We strongly encourage publishing as an open access article or in an open access journal.
  • Recently, some journals have created special sections for publishing guidelines and methods papers. Examples include PLoS Medicine (more details here) and the BMJ (more details here).
  • The EQUATOR Network regularly searches the literature for new reporting guidelines, however we encourage authors to inform us when their guideline is published so that we can include it in our database and support its wider uptake.

Translation policies

  • Ensuring that the meaning of the guideline remains the same after its translation is crucial. Good translation practice supports a 2-stage process (translation and back-translation).  Examples of guideline translation policies include the SPIRIT Statement and the CONSORT Statement

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