What is a Cochrane review?
A Cochrane Review is a systematic, up-to-date summary of reliable evidence of the benefits and risks of healthcare. Cochrane Reviews are intended to help people make practical decisions. In order to publish a Cochrane systematic review you will need to adhere to guidelines published in the Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook and developed by the Review Group. Cochrane Reviews are prepared using Review Manager software provided by the Collaboration and adhere to a structured format that is described in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
What to do first
Read How to propose and register a Cochrane review title. It is important to check The Cochrane Library to see whether the proposal duplicates existing work.
We suggest that you first contact the Managing Editor of the Group by email email@example.com, to confirm that the title fits within the scope of the Group, that it is not currently being undertaken by anyone else, and that it would be considered a priority for registration.
If the proposal appears to meet these requirements, we will ask you to complete the review proposal form with your idea for a review and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like your proposal to meet the following criteria:
- We require that each review has at least two authors from at least two institutions.
- If members of the review team have been involved in studies which may be eligible for the review, then one of the review team should be someone who is not involved in the study to act as a 'guarantor'.
- We also consider it an advantage for authors to be multidisciplinary.
- We encourage the inclusion of paramedical staff, nurses and patient representatives.
- A CV of the lead author should be attached.
Expectations of review teams
By agreeing to join a review team preparing a Cochrane review, authors accept responsibility for preparing, maintaining and updating the review in accordance with Cochrane Collaboration policy. The Cochrane Review Group (CRG) will provide as much support as possible to assist with the preparation of the review.
A draft protocol must be submitted to the CRG within three months of title registration and full review with 12 months of protocol publication. If drafts are not submitted before the agreed deadlines, or if we are unable to contact you for an extended period, the CRG has the right to de register the title or transfer the title to alternative authors. The CRG has the right to de register or transfer the title if it does not meet the standards of the CRG and/or The Cochrane Collaboration. Members of review teams who are not actively contributing to the development of the review may be asked to step down and new review authors sought to move stalled reviews on, after discussion between the contact author and the editorial base of the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group.
Authors accept responsibility for maintaining the review in light of new evidence, comments and criticisms, and other developments, and updating the review at least once every two years unless a longer update cycle is agreed, or transferring responsibility for maintaining the review to others as agreed with the CRG.
You and your co-authors will be asked to complete a Declaration of interest form at this stage. When your title has been agreed it will be registered with the Group and you will receive an information pack from us. If you have not conducted a systematic review before we strongly recommend that you attend the training courses run by your local Cochrane Centre (follow this link for details of courses near you). If this is not possible then we will try to provide you with support from a Cochrane expert.
Information for authors
All authors are encouraged to read the Cochrane Handbook before starting their review.
Our group has produced an additional information leaflet, Statistical Guidelines. A generic data extraction form that can be adapted to a review can be found here: an Appendix to this also available.
Writing the protocol for the review
This is the first stage and should describe the rationale for the review; the objectives; and the methods that will be used to locate, select and critically appraise studies; and to collect and analyse data from the included studies.
We ask that you submit your protocol within three months of title registration. It will be peer reviewed by at least three referees including topic and statistical experts and consumer representatives. We are likely to return the protocol to you for revision approximately eight weeks after submission, but aim to do so earlier if possible.
After you have made any necessary amendments your protocol will be included in the next issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published in the Cochrane Library.
Moving on to the review stage
When your protocol has been accepted for publication we will conduct a search of our specialised register of trials and other databases such as MEDLINE and EMBASE and provide you with details of relevant studies.
Using the methods detailed in your protocol you will then assess, select and critically appraise the studies you have identified. The results are presented as a summary of the data extracted from the included studies. This may or may not involve using statistical methods (meta-analysis).
We ask that a review is completed within 12 months of the protocol being accepted for publication. The review will be peer reviewed according to the same procedure as the protocol and returned to you for revision. After you have made any necessary amendments your review will be included in the next issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published in the Cochrane Library. The first author will receive a complimentary copy of the Cochrane Library for as long as this review remains up to date.
We have also produced some guidance on choice of outcome measures for authors working on reviews of diabetic neuropathies.
But that's not all.......
It is essential that your review is kept up-to-date. In accepting responsibility for writing a Cochrane systematic review you enter into a commitment to keep it up-to-date; by either revising it when new data become available or identifying someone else who will take on the task. There is also a procedure through which you will be informed of comments made on your review by readers which may necessitate you making amendments to the review. For information on updating your review please see our Updating Policy.
Paper publication of reviews
We encourage the publication of paper versions of Cochrane systematic reviews in paper journals. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Motor Neuron Disorders, Clinical Rehabilitation, the Journal of Neuroepidemiology, and Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry have in the past agreed in principle to publish such reviews. The paper version is usually very different in format but should always refer to The Cochrane Library review (and vice versa). Permission for publication in paper journals has to be sought from John Wiley and Sons, Ltd, the publishers of The Cochrane Library, but will not be unreasonably withheld.
Overviews of reviews
Overviews or reviews summarize multiple Cochrane intervention reviews addressing the effects of two or more potential interventions for a single condition or health problem. In the absence of a relevant Cochrane intervention review, Cochrane overviews may additionally include systematic reviews published elsewhere.
The Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group plans to prepare overviews of reviews and has prioritized a list of important overviews.
Podcasts are now part of the Cochrane concept. The Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group will consider producing podcasts of key reviews. These will be simple podcasts of about four minutes in length, approximately 400 words long.
Authors of reviews who receive feedback or a comment on their review through the 'Feedback' facility on The Cochrane Library are required to address the comment within three months and reply to the criticism editor of the group. Once the criticism editor is satisfied that the authors have satisfactorily responded to the comment, both the comment and response will be published with the review. If the review requires significant changes in the light of such comments, it will be subject to the same editorial process as an updated review.
Links to Cochrane resources
- Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions - the official guide to producing Cochrane reviews
- RevMan web page - documentation and support for software for preparing and maintaining Cochrane reviews
- GRADEpro - (GRADEprofiler) is the software used to create Summary of Findings (SoF) tables in Cochrane systematic reviews
- Cochrane Style Resource - compare your Cochrane Review against the official style guide
- Co-publishing reviews in other journals - see our publishing policy
- Diagnostic test accuracy review guidance http://srdta.cochrane.org/
- Reporting Guidelines
CONSORT - reporting of RCTs
PRISMA (formerly QUOROM) [PDF document] - preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
STROBE - reporting of observational studies in epidemiology
EQUATOR Network - collection of reporting guidelines
- In June 2013, the publication model for the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews changed to a continuous publication model, where reviews and protocols are published when they are ready. This means that there are no monthly publication deadlines. All Cochrane Reviews (including protocols and updates) submitted for publication within the calendar month and up to 2200GMT on the last day of the calendar month will be included within the monthly issue.
Training - online
- Open Learning Materials - learn the steps in convenient online modules which supplement the Cochrane Handbook in helping you gain skills and complete your review.