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Systematic and Complex Reviews

A review protocol

“Protocols ... allow for planning and documentation of review methods, act as a guard against arbitrary decision making during review conduct, enable readers to assess for the presence of selective reporting against completed reviews, and, when made publicly available, reduce duplication of efforts and potentially prompt collaboration" (Shamseer et al., 2015). For best practice register your protocol prior to the commencement of the review.

Check existing reviews/protocols

To reduce research waste ensure that a recently completed or ongoing systematic review in your area has not already been registered by searching relevant databases on your topic area before commencing a systematic review. The most common databases to search for systematic reviews are listed below.

Cochrane Library (John Wiley & Sons)  The Campbell Collaboration
PubMed Clinical Queries (U.S. National Library of Medicine) Joanna Briggs Institute EBP (Ovid)
Bandolier: Evidence based thinking about health care OT Seeker
PEDro: Physiotherapy Evidence Database PROSPERO
Trip Open Scientific Framework (OSF)

Register your own protocol

It is important and sometimes mandatory to register your systematic review protocol. A protocol documents the key points of your systematic review. It specifies the objectives, methods, and outcomes of primary interest of the systematic review. This increases the transparency of your review and reduces the risk of introducing bias into your review. It also serves to reduce research waste by removing the chance of duplication of effort.

Systematic Review/Protocol registries

  • PROSPERO – international prospective register of systematic reviews.
  • Open Science Framework (OSF)  is a free, open source tool provided by the Center for Open Science. It can be used to share all or part of a project for example register a protocol for either a systematic or scoping review.
  • Campbell Collaboration – produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions.
  • Cochrane Reviews – produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions.
  • Joanna Briggs Institute – for the use of JBI review authors and affiliates only to register a review title.

Protocol templates and guides


Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., Shekelle, P., & Stewart, L. A. (2015). Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015: Elaboration and explanation. BMJ, 349, g7647.

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