Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

Review of adherence to reporting guidelines in health care literature


Samaan and colleagues carried out a systematic scoping review of systematic reviews of adherence to reporting guidelines across different clinical areas and study designs.They conclude that adherence to reporting guidelines remains sub-optimal and propose a number of recommendations to improve this.

The following summary and recommendations have been reproduced directly from the text of this open access paper:

Summary and recommendations

“Factors that are associated with reporting standards can be grouped into four categories:

  • Study design: Better reporting standards were seen in studies with large sample sizes; RCT design; transparency in reporting randomization, adverse events, and secondary outcomes; and studies of drug interventions.
  • Timing of publication: Studies that were published more recently were associated with better quality of reporting.
  • Study sponsor: Studies with an industrial sponsor were also associated with a better quality of reporting.
  • Journal: Journals with a high impact factor and those endorsing the CONSORT Statement and its extensions tended to publish studies with better adherence to reporting standards”.

Recommendations for educators

“Educators are at the forefront of teaching research methodology and applications in clinical settings, and therefore they play an important role in improving the reporting standards of clinical literature. Educators need to emphasize the importance of reporting standards and incorporate the guidelines in research training. They also need to provide ongoing training through workshops at professional meetings, and highlight the factors shown to improve the quality of reporting to foster improved reporting standards of the clinical literature”.

Recommendations for authors

“Authors should use the reporting standards appropriate to the study design as a guide to planning and reporting studies, and provide a flow diagram and checklist that will not only improve the reporting standard and adherence to guidelines, but will also help with transparency and reproducibility of the study. The use of the guidelines will also help to minimize reporting bias. For resources on using reporting standards, see the EQUATOR Network website”.

Recommendations for editors
“Studies published in journals endorsing the CONSORT and its extensions were described as having better reporting quality and increased adherence to guidelines. Therefore, editors must endorse the reporting standards as part of their journal editorial policy. Furthermore, inclusion of the respective guideline checklist must also be part of the editorial policy. Editors need to consider assessing the adherence to reporting guidelines as a requirement for peer review, and they should revise the peer review process to incorporate these assessments”.

Recommendations for sponsors

“Sponsors can ensure that the quality of the study methodology and transparency are meeting these standards by requesting adherence to the respective reporting guidelines appropriate for the study design”.

Recommendations for research ethics boards

“Institutional Review Boards or Research Ethics Boards have a substantial responsibility to ensure ethical and sound methodological quality of clinical studies. Therefore, we recommend that Institutional Review Boards/Research Ethics Boards require that protocols be submitted for ethical approval to clearly state what reporting standards the study will be using based on the study design, and that reporting guidelines checklist are part of the application for ethics approval”.

Recommendation for health consumers

“In accordance with the general principles of evidence-based health care practice, we encourage consumers or health care users to be actively involved in their health care by discussing their care options with their providers. Understanding information presented in published studies can be an important ingredient in these discussions. We suggest that health care users consider the evaluation of the quality of the information presented in the literature by looking for a guideline statement and a checklist to ensure the study reporting followed a certain standard that is appropriate for the particular study design”

“Lastly, one element that all parties need to take into consideration is the importance of conducting large studies. Large studies have been shown to have a better quality of reporting. Large studies are also less prone to problems of bias and have better precision”.


Samaan Z, Mbuagbaw L, Kosa D, Borg Debono V, Dillenburg R, Zhang S, Fruci V, Dennis B, Bawor M, Thabane L. A systematic scoping review of adherence to reporting guidelines in health care literature. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2013 May 6;6:169-88. PMID: 23671390

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