Reporting guidelines of health research studies are frequently used inappropriately.
Caulley L., Catalá-López F., Whelan J., Khoury M., Ferraro J., Cheng W., Husereau D., Altman DG., Moher D.
OBJECTIVES: Appropriate use of reporting guidelines of health research ensures that articles present readers with a consistent representation of study relevance, methodology, and results. This study evaluated the use of major reporting guidelines. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: A cross-sectional analysis of health research articles citing four major reporting guidelines indexed in the Web of Science Core Collection (up to June 24, 2018). Two independent reviews were performed in a random sample of 200 articles, including clinical trials (N = 50), economic evaluations (N = 50), systematic reviews (N = 50), and animal research studies (N = 50). The use of reporting guidelines to guide the reporting of research studies was considered appropriate. Inappropriate uses included the use of the reporting guidelines as a tool to assess the methodological quality of studies or as a guideline on how to design and conduct the studies. RESULTS: Across all selected reporting guidelines, appropriate use of reporting guidelines was observed in only 39% (95% CI: 32-46%; 78/200) of articles. By contrast, inappropriate use was observed in 41% (95% CI: 34-48%; 82/200), and unclear/other use was observed in 20% (95% CI: 15-26%; 40/200). CONCLUSIONS: Reporting guidelines of health research studies are frequently used inappropriately. Authors may require further education around appropriate use of the reporting guidelines in research reporting.