Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

EQUATOR resources in German | Portuguese | Spanish

Introduction to reporting guidelines – new text

What are the basic principles and requirements for reporting health research?

Most biomedical journals require authors to comply with the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations, formerly the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts) prepared by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). This document outlines the ethical principles for the conduct and reporting of research and provides recommendations relating to specific elements of editing and writing.

The Grey Literature International Steering Committee (GLISC) have adapted the ICMJE requirements (the earlier version) and created Guidelines for the Production of Scientific and Technical Reports. These guidelines cover ethical considerations, publishing and editorial issues, and report preparation.

International standards for authors of scholarly publications were proposed at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore 2010 and are freely available online. The key principles for responsible practice in research reporting are reproduced here:

  • The research being reported should have been conducted in an ethical and responsible manner and should comply with all relevant legislation.
  • Researchers should present their results clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification or inappropriate data manipulation.
  • Researchers should strive to describe their methods clearly and unambiguously so that their findings can be confirmed by others.
  • Researchers should follow applicable reporting guidelines. Publications should provide sufficient detail to permit experiments to be repeated by other researchers.
  • Researchers should adhere to publication requirements that submitted work is original, is not plagiarised, and has not been published elsewhere.
  • Authors should take collective responsibility for submitted and published work.
  • The authorship of research publications should accurately reflect individuals’ contributions to the work and its reporting.
  • Funding sources and relevant conflicts of interest should be disclosed.


What is a reporting guideline?

A reporting guideline is a simple, structured tool for health researchers to use while writing manuscripts. A reporting guideline provides a minimum list of information needed to ensure a manuscript can be, for example:

  • Understood by a reader,
  • Replicated by a researcher,
  • Used by a doctor to make a clinical decision, and
  • Included in a systematic review.

Reporting guidelines are more than just some thoughts about what needs to be in an academic paper. We define a reporting guideline as:

“A checklist, flow diagram, or structured text to guide authors in reporting a specific type of research, developed using explicit methodology.”

Whether presented as structured text or a checklist, a reporting guideline:

  • presents a clear list of reporting items that should appear in a paper and
  • explains how the list was developed.


Reporting guidelines provide structured advice on the minimum information to be included in an article reporting a particular type of medical research. They focus on the scientific content of an article and thus complement journals’ instructions to authors which mostly deal with the technicalities of submitted manuscripts. Some reporting guidelines are generic for defined study designs (e.g. RCTs) and should always be observed when reporting this type of study. Most published guidelines are more specific, however, providing guidance relevant to a particular medical specialty or a particular aspect of research (e.g. reporting adverse events, economic evaluations, etc.). The content of each of these guidelines was very carefully considered by multidisciplinary groups of relevant experts and there is a strong rationale for each requested information item. Items range from ‘simple’ requests such as the identification of study design in the titles or abstracts to items focusing on aspects of the study methods that might introduce bias into the research.

Following internationally accepted generic reporting guidelines helps to ensure the study manuscript contains all necessary information that readers need to assess the study’s relevance, methodology, and the validity of its findings.


Simera I, Altman DG. Reporting medical research. Int J Clin Pract. 2013;67(8):710-6.

Moher D, Weeks L, Ocampo M, Seely D, Sampson M, Altman DG, Schulz KF, Miller D, Simera I, Grimshaw J, Hoey J. Describing reporting guidelines for health research: a systematic review. J Clin Epidemiol. 2011;64(7):718-742.

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.

Wager E, Kleinert S.  Responsible research publication: international standards for authors. A position statement developed at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity, Singapore, July 22-24, 2010. Chapter 50 in: Mayer T & Steneck N (eds) Promoting Research Integrity in a Global Environment. Imperial College Press / World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, 2011: pp 309-16). (ISBN 978-981-4340-97-7)


Feel free to use these slides in your talks but please acknowledge that the slides were prepared by EQUATOR Network members

What are reporting guidelines – brief (Iveta Simera, EQUATOR workshop, Geneva, 2013)

What are reporting guidelines (Iveta Simera, EQUATOR workshop, Chicago 2013)

Research article: where can reporting guidelines help (Iveta Simera, EQUATOR workshop, Freiburg 2012); Structure of a medical research paper: key content elements, writing tips, and examples of reporting guidelines (handout pdf)

Introducing the EQUATOR website and online resources (Shona Kirtley, Chicago 2013)