The Importance of Reporting Guidelines

The use of reporting guidelines is critical for the creation of transparent, accurate, reliable, and replicable scientific research publications. The EQUATOR Network (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) is an international effort to help encourage the widespread use of reporting guidelines in health research. The EQUATOR Network maintains a searchable database of reporting guidelines online, in addition to tutorials and tool kits designed to improve scientific writing.

WATCH: Reporting Guidelines, Measures and Harmonization

Presented by the National Cancer Institute

In a clear signal about the importance of appropriate reporting, in 2017 the journal Implementation Science published Enhancing the reporting of implementation research in order to clearly identify for researchers the specific reporting issues necessary to enhance the scientific reporting quality and transparency of the manuscripts submitted.

For an expert review of why reporting standards are critical, be sure to watch the National Cancer Institute's archived webinar "Reporting Guidelines, Measures and Harmonization".

While not exhaustive, outlined below is a selection of reporting guidelines most often used in implementation science.


Reporting Standards to Know

Implementation Strategies - Recommendations for Specifying and Reporting

In 2013, Proctor, Powell and McMillen published their recommendations for naming, defining and operationalizing seven dimensions of implementation strategies: actor, the action, action targets, temporality, dose, implementation outcomes addressed, and theoretical justification. These recommendations responded to the poor description, inconsistent labeling, and lack of theoretical underpinning characteristic of most implementation research.


Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies (STaRI)

The STaRI initiative developed this 27 item checklist to improve the scientific reporting of implementation strategies. The checklist prompts both the detailed description of the intervention strategy used as well as a detailed description of the intervention effectiveness. The STaRI checklist is not specific to a particular research methodology, and can be applied to the wide range of study designs used in implementation science.

Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR)

An international panel of experts developed this checklist to improve the quality of intervention description in published research. The checklist is intended to guide authors in their reporting of interventions, as well as to aid reviewers and editors in their decisions regarding evidence of necessary reporting. The ultimate goal of the checklist is to ensure that publications contain clear and accurate accounts of interventions.

WIDER Recommendations for Reporting of Behavior Change Interventions

In response to Michie et al's paper "Specifying and reporting complex behaviour change interventions: the need for a scientific method", Albrecht et al used the 2007 Workgroup for Intervention Development and Evaluation Research (WIDER) Recommendations to develop a checklist operationalizing each of the recommendations.

Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT)

First published in 1996, the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement aims to improve the quality of reporting on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The CONSORT statement was revised in 2001 and again in 2010 to improve wording and clarify previous versions.

Selected Extensions:

Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS)

Economic evaluation data is increasingly used to make allocation decisions, but a lack of transparency can make it difficult for decision makers to use or find economic evaluation data. Published by the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research in 2013 as an attempt to consolidate and clarify existing economic evaluation guidelines, the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) is a 24-item checklist intended for researchers, editors, and peer reviewers.

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Checklist

In 2005 a stakeholder panel was convened to adapt the 1996 QUality Of Reporting Of Meta-analyses (QUOROM), with adaptation focusing on sub-optimal reporting of meta-analyses, capturing the iterative nature of systematic reviews, and reporting on bias. The resulting instrument was named Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), to reflect the incorporation of both systematic reviews and meta-analyses.



Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions

Cochrane reviews are systematic reviews of primary human health research focusing on the effects of interventions. The stringent guidelines adhered to in a Cochrane review are internationally recognized as the gold standard, with their reviews being peer-reviewed and regularly updated.


Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR)

The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) were published in 2014 to improve transparent reporting of the very broad range of qualitative research. This 21-item checklist outlines the minimum criteria that should be present in qualitative research reporting, explicitly addressing differences from quantitative reporting.


Enhancing transparency in reporting the synthesis of qualitative research (ENTREQ)

The Enhancing transparency in reporting the synthesis of qualitative research (ENTREQ) statement was published in 2012 to assist researchers in synthesizing qualitative health research. Comprised of 21 items, this checklist outlines how to find, assess, and synthesize qualitative health research.

Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences

In 2010, The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) commissioned a working group to evaluate and make recommendations on best practices for mixed methods research. The resulting report provides best practice recommendations for grant applicants, reviewers, and stakeholders engaging in health services mixed methods research.

Guidance for Reporting Involvement of Patients and Public 2 (GRIPP2)

In 2017, the first international guidance on reporting patient and public involvement in health research was published. The original GRIPP checklist was revised using the EQUATOR method of developing reporting guidelines, and is available in both a short and long form version.