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Unless there is good reason to do otherwise, you should follow the PRISMA standards and checklist when preparing your report. The abstract should comply with PRISMA guidelines. These are available on the PRISMA website.

The main report should also include (but need not be restricted to) the headings set out in section 1.3.6 of the CRD report, Systematic Reviews: CRD’s guidance for undertaking reviews in health care. A slightly adapted version of these headings follows:

  • List of abbreviations / glossary
  • Abstract
  • Plain language summary
  • Scientific Summary
  • Background
  • Hypotheses tested in the review (research questions)
  • Review methods (including any changes to the protocol, search dates, etc.)
  • Studies included in the review
  • Results of the review
  • Analysis of the robustness of the results (sensitivity analyses)
  • Discussion (recommendations for future research, implication for decision makers).  You are encouraged to make some general observations about the wider field of research as well as specific recommendations, and there should be a balance between the two.  Your discussion will be required to include separate headings to discuss ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ and ‘Patient and Public Involvement’, which will be mandatory from 1st April 2022.
  • Conclusions (clear summary of the main findings of the research)
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
  • Appendices (including an appendix listing studies excluded from the review)

Authors should note that the term ‘systematic review’ will only appear in a report’s title when the account of the search, appraisal and synthesis methods (to minimise biases and random errors) would, in theory, permit the replication of the review by others.

Search dates for literature review, particularly on evidence synthesis projects where the results are derived from that literature, must be no more than 12 months old upon first submission of the report to the Editorial Office. However, where a literature review is just one component of a larger study, such as when it forms the basis for subsequent elements of the project, it should be as up to date as necessary for that project.