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Knowledge Synthesis

This guide includes content about systematic reviews, including general information and information about librarian assistance

Before moving forward with any systematic review, we recommend filling out a Systematic Review Protocol in PROSPERO or Open Science Framework. Systematic reviews are a time commitment, taking an average of 67.5 weeks or 15 months (see our Systematic Review Timeline page for an in-depth breakdown of the timeline/phases of a systematic review). Successfully filling out a protocol gives an insight into the amount of work that goes into a systematic review and may help increase chances of completing a systematic review. A registered systematic review protocol can also count as a citation.

Systematic Review Protocols

What is a protocol?

A systematic review protocol describes the rationale, hypothesis, and planned methods of the review. It should be prepared before a review is started and used as a guide to carry out the review.

Why register a systematic review protocol?

A systematic review protocol is important for several reasons:

  1. It allows systematic reviewers to plan carefully and thereby anticipate potential problems
  2. It allows reviewers to explicitly document what is planned before they start their review, enabling others to compare the protocol and the completed review (that is, to identify selective reporting), to replicate review methods if desired, and to judge the validity of planned methods;
  3. It prevents arbitrary decision making with respect to inclusion criteria and extraction of data
  4. It may reduce duplication of efforts and enhance collaboration, when available


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.