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Guidelines for reporting scientific studies

Guidelines for Reporting Scientific Studies: Why do you need them?

Accurate reporting of scientific studies is most important. Researchers use the studies as a base for their own research. Clinicians use them to plan the right treatment for the patients. The government health agencies use them to design impactful preventive and treatment strategies. Thus, if you don’t report the results accurately in the scientific publications, they won’t provide any value to the society and all your hard work will go waste.

So, several guidelines are introduced to ensure the results are reported in an accurate manner. Here, we will discuss the eleven guidelines that are commonly used for reporting various types of scientific studies:

1) PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) is a guideline for proper reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. It is also useful for critical appraisal of a published systematic review. The PRISMA statement comprises a checklist of 27 items, which are divided into the categories of title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion and funding. It also advocates the use of a flow diagram to present the results in an effective manner.

2) CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) is a statement that guides the reporting of randomized controlled trials. The statement was first developed in 1996 to remove any bias in reporting the results of randomized clinical trials. It comprises a 25-item checklist and is divided into categories like title and abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and other information.

3) STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational studies in Epidemiology) is a guideline for reporting observational studies like cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies. The observational studies previous to the development of STROBE didn’t explain the confounding variables nor had any reporting on the method of selecting the study and control groups. To overcome this inadequacy, STROBE came into being in 2004. It comprises a 22-item checklist under the headings of title and abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and other information. For genetic association studies, STROBE has been extended to STREGA (Strengthening the Reporting of Genetic Association studies).

4) STARD (Standards for the Reporting of Diagnostic accuracy studies) has been developed for accurate reporting of diagnostic and prognostic studies. A survey about the diagnostic studies published in medical journals between 1978 and 1993 revealed poor or mediocre quality. They lacked a proper study design, proper method, and difficulty in evaluating their results. Thereafter, STARD came forth with the checklist of 25 items under the following headlines: title/abstract/keywords, introduction, methods, results, and discussion. A flow diagram is recommended to report the methods used for patient recruitment and the order in which the tests are carried out.

5) SPIRIT (Standard Protocol Items: Recommendations for Interventional Trials) was created in 2007 for the reporting of scientific trial protocols as many of them lacked information on primary outcome, treatment allocation methods, and the use of blinding in randomized trials. It includes 33 items divided into the following domains: administrative information, introduction, methods, ethics and dissemination, and appendices. It recommends a protocol in a specified format which includes a table of contents, section headings, glossary, and list of references.

6) CARE (Consensus-based Clinical Case Reporting) is developed to increase the accuracy, transparency, and usefulness of case reports.

7) SRQR (Standards for reporting qualitative research) is formulated to define the standards for reporting qualitative research and preserve the requisite flexibility to accommodate various paradigms, approaches, and methods used in them. Consisting of 21 items, it requires the authors to define and explain the key elements of each item and provide examples from recently published articles.

8) SQUIRE (Standards for Quality Improvement Reporting Excellence) guidelines provide a framework to report any new study conducted for improving the healthcare of the community.

9) CHEERS (Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards) is an attempt to consolidate and update previous health economic evaluation guidelines into a useful reporting guidance. It is a user-friendly 24 item checklist with recommendations divided into following categories: title and abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and other information.

10) ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) has been laid down to report any area of bioscience research that uses laboratory animals, to improve the quality of information published and reduce the number of animal studies.

11) AGREE Reporting Checklist can be used by practice guideline developers, guideline users, funders, peer reviewers, and journal editors to improve the comprehension, completeness, and transparency of reporting in practice guidelines.

The purpose of having these reporting guidelines in scientific research is to create a manual for the authors to follow and promote total transparency, accurate reporting, and easier assessment of the validity of reported research findings. Though it has been accomplished to some degree, but still much needs to be done. It’s time that scientific editors, authors, and journal reviewers assemble to figure out how to best use these reporting guidelines.

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