Reporting guidelines

This chapter is about tools that will help you with reporting your research in such a way that readers can understand, replicate or use it.

What are reporting guidelines?

Incomplete reporting can be very annoying to anyone who truly wants to understand a scientific paper. In that sense, incomplete reporting is a source of waste. Especially, the lack of reporting about key methodological aspects may hinder critical appraisal of the study findings. Each section of a report (title, (structured) abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, references, acknowledgments, appendices) has its own requirements for essential elements that need reporting. These elements may vary according to your study design. Reporting guidelines tell you what the necessary details are for others to get a good picture of what you did and what you found.

Why is complete reporting important?

Study findings in themselves are worth nothing if we do not know how they came about. In addition, the Research Waste movement determined that incomplete reporting constitutes a fair share of wasted investments in (biomedical) science. Here is where reporting guidelines step in.

When to use reporting guidelines: at the start and at the end.

We advise you to identify the reporting guideline(s) applicable to your study design immediately after you determined which study design you will be using. We recommend this because the guidelines may suggest features you would not otherwise have thought of using. Then, at the time of writing the report, you revisit the (latest version of the) guideline and use it for reporting. Note that more and more good journals are actively requiring you to use reporting guidelines.

Where to find reporting guidelines?

The easiest way, at least for medically oriented research, is to go to equator network. Equator network also has a decision aid, the equator wizard, that helps you decide which guideline matches your research. You can find the wizard here. Equator provides checklists, flow diagrams, structured text and links to elaboration papers for some of the more carefully developed guidelines, for example:

Study type Reporting guideline
Randomized trials CONSORT, see also extentions: cluster, cross-over, stepped wedge, mutli-arm
Qualitative research COREQ, SRQR
Systematic reviews PRISMA, see also PRISMA-harms, network meta-analysis
Observational studies STROBE
Prediction models TRIPOD

Of course, you may search via Google scholar and other search engines if your research design is not covered by any of the guidelines in the Equator toolbox.