What Is the PRISMA Checklist?
PRISMA is the commonly used acronym for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses, an evidence-based checklist with 27 items that cover all aspects of a systematic review. The standard was developed to improve the transparency of systematic reviews and is endorsed by health sciences organizations and publications.
The PRISMA checklist is divided into specific sections to make sure all reviewers and editors use the same items during evaluation of a manuscript.
Sections of the PRISMA Checklist
The PRISMA Methodology for Systematic Review includes a review of the title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and other information. When manuscript reviews are conducted, all items in the 7 sections described below must be completed.
As part of the title, the report must be identified as a systematic review.
If the document is an abstract, and not a full manuscript, the PRISMA abstract checklist needs to be used. The abstract checklist has 12 items that are essentially a shorter adaptation of the full checklist. The sections and topics in an abstract review include:
- Background: Objectives
- Methods: Eligibility criteria, information sources, risk of bias, process of synthesizing results
- Results: Included studies, synthesis of results
- Discussion: Interpretation, limitations of evidence
- Other: Funding, registration
The introduction includes 2 main sections: the rationale (where the reason for conducting the review in the context of existing knowledge is described) and the objectives (where the objective or questions the review addresses are explicitly stated).
The methods section features numerous topics, including:
- Eligibility criteria: Inclusion and exclusion criteria, how studies were grouped in synthesis
- Information sources: Each individual source and last date searched or consulted
- Search strategy: Strategy for finding all sources
- Selection process: Methods used during selection
- Data collection process: Methods used during data collection
- Data items: A list of all outcomes and variables
- Study risk of bias assessment: Methods used to assess risk of bias
- Effect measures: Descriptions for each outcome
- Synthesis methods: 6 subcategories to address
- Reporting bias assessment: Methods used to assess how missing data may bias results
- Certainty assessment: Assessment of certainty or confidence in the outcomes
The result section is comprised of the following topics:
- Study selection: Presents results of the search and selection process, and explains why studies were excluded
- Study characteristics: Includes study design features, participant characteristics, and how outcomes were obtained; this information is used to determine study eligibility for inclusion
- Risk of bias in studies: Lists sources of potential bias such as incomplete blinding or missing data; information may be presented by study components, or for each study as a whole
- Results of individual studies: Summarizes statistics for each group (where appropriate), including an effect estimate and its precision; ideally uses structured tables or plots
- Results of syntheses: Summarize the characteristics and risk of bias among contributing studies
- Reporting biases: Assesses the risk of bias due to missing results in syntheses
- Certainty of evidence: Assesses the certainty or confidence in the body of evidence for each outcome assessed
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The discussion section provides a general interpretation of the results of the systematic review in context with existing evidence. This includes any limitations of the evidence and/or review processes used in the study, as well as any implications of the results for practice, policy, and future research.
This section includes 4 topics:
- Registration and protocol (eg, register name, registration number, review protocol, amendments to the information provided at registration or in the protocol)
- Support (eg, sources of financial or non-financial support, role of the funders or sponsors)
- Competing interests (competing interests of review authors)
- Availability of data, code, or other materials (public availability and locations)
Hopefully, you now have a much broader understanding of the PRISMA checklist and what is involved in a systematic review, and you also understand why the use of the PRISMA checklist is so important.
For optimal results, remember to go over each checklist item in detail and fill in every portion of the checklist as thoroughly as possible.