Skip to Main Content

Systematic and Systematic-like Reviews

Develop your review protocol

The protocol is the detailed plan for your systematic review.  It sets out your rationale and methodology, and should be developed right at the beginning. You can refine it as you go on. 

Publishing your protocol in either a register or a journal will help avoid duplication of reviews. It also:

For more information on the importance of protocols:

TIP: It's also a good idea to check through protocol registers to see if another group of researchers has already registered a review on your topic. (See the Where ... box below).

What should your protocol include?

The PRISMA website (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis) has a page on PRISMA-P (PRISMA for Systematic Review Protocols).

PRISMA-P was published in 2015 to facilitate the development and reporting of systematic review protocols. 

Resources on the PRISMA-P webpage include:

Typically, your systematic review protocol should include:

  • Your rationale and objectives, including your PICO or other framework
  • Your eligibility criteria (inclusions and exclusions)
  • Your choice of sources (databases and grey literature), and your search strategy
  • How you will screen your records, and extract, manage, and analyse the data.

Where should you publish it?

  • Many journals will publish protocols - check the journals in your field. Instructions for authors will often have guidelines for the level of detail expected in the protocols they publish or where the protocol should be published.
  • PROSPERO - “an international database of prospectively registered systematic reviews in health and social care, welfare, public health, education, crime, justice, and international development, where there is a health related outcome” (from About PROSPERO).Once you register your protocol on PROSPERO, it will be available on open access through their database. 

    Find out more here:  Guidance notes for registering a systematic review protocol with PROSPERO (University of York Centre for Reviews and Dissemination).

    NOTE: According to the Prospero home page, it does not have the resources to accept protocols from students or scoping reviews.
  • Cochrane Library - includes protocols of Cochrane Reviews that are planned or in progress. 
  • JBI EBP Database  search for protocols by using the Publication Types drop-down menu under the search box.
  • Open Science Framework (OSF) - a free open source project management tool.  You can register all types of review protocols including scoping reviews. For instructions on how to submit, see Welcome to registrations.
  • Figshare - A free open access repository for sharing academic research outputs. You can register all types of review protocols including scoping reviews, and you can upload files in any format.
  • The International Database of Education Systematic Reviews (IDESR)A database of published systematic reviews in education, and a clearinghouse for protocol registration of ongoing and planned systematic reviews. Accepts registrations of review protocols for all areas of education. For guidelines on submission, see Inclusion criteria for IDESR protocols.

Examples of protocols

Fealy, S., McLaren, S., Rose, L., & Ageing Well in Rural and Regional Australia Research Group. (2023). Psychological Interventions designed to assist older people to transition to permanent residential aged care: A systematic scoping review protocol. (Version 4). figshare.

Fealy, S. et al. (2022). The application (use) of extended reality (XR) technology in primary care settings. A systematic review and narrative synthesis. Prospero.

Matthys, A., Cash, B., & Moorhead, B. (2023). The representation of people living with dementia in Australian voluntary assisted dying research: A scoping review protocol. OSF.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.Acknowledgement of Country

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.