Editor's checklists

The BMJ's editors don't routinely use checklists for critical appraisal, but these are the kind of questions we ask ourselves when reading papers:

Critical appraisal questions

  • What is the paper about?
  • Why was the study done?
  • What type of study was done?
  • Was it primary research (experiment, RCT, cohort, case-control, cross-sectional, longitudinal, case report/series)?
  • Was it secondary research (overview, systematic review, meta-analysis, decision analysis, guidelines development, economic analysis)?
  • Was the design appropriate (for study on treatment, diagnosis, screening, prognosis, or causation)?
  • Was the study ethical?
  • Is the design right?
    Does this treatment work?

    systematic review, RCT

    How good is a diagnostic test?

    (prospective) cohort study

    Should we screen?


    What causes this disease?

    RCT, prospective cohort study, case control study (rare diseases)

    What did people think or do?

    cohort study, cross-sectional survey, qualitative study

Qualitative research checklist

These are the questions that BMJ editors should consider when appraising papers presenting original qualitative research (although we don't routinely use a checklist for this):

  • Was the research question clearly defined?
  • Overall, did the researcher make explicit in the account the theoretical framework and methods used at every stage or the research?
  • Was the context clearly described?
  • Was the sampling strategy clearly described and justified?
  • Was the sampling strategy theoretically comprehensive to ensure the generalisability of the conceptual analysis (diverse range of individuals and settings, for example)?
  • How was the fieldwork undertaken? Was it described in detail?
  • Could the evidence (fieldwork notes, interview transcripts, recordings, documentary analysis, etc) could be inspected independently by others: if relevant, could the process of transcription be independently inspected?
  • Were the procedures for data analysis clearly described and theoretically justified? Did they relate to the original research questions? How were themes and concepts identified from the data?
  • Was the analysis repeated by more than one researcher to ensure reliability?
  • Did the investigator make use of quantitative evidence to test qualitative conclusions where appropriate?
  • Did the investigator give evidence of seeking out observations that might have contradicted or modified the analysis?
  • Was sufficient of the original evidence presented systematically in the written account to satisfy the sceptical reader of the relation between the interpretation and the evidence (for example, were quotations numbered and sources given)?

Technical editor's checklist

When the BMJ accepts a paper provisionally and asks the authors to revise it, a technical editor completes a checklist covering any points of house style that need attention. The checklist below is for original research papers: slightly different checklists are used for other types of article:

Front matter

  • Please add design of study to title
  • Please provide position (job title) for each author
  • The abstract should be 250-300 words long: you may need up to 400 words, however, for a CONSORT or PRISMA style
  • abstract.

  • The abstract must be structured with regulation headings (Objective, Design, Setting, Participants, (Interventions,) Main outcome measures, Results, Conclusions. For meta-analyses often only Objective, Design, Results, Conclusion headings are needed, though others are possible)
  • Please provide trial registration number for clinical randomised controlled trials

Body text

  • Abbreviations should be spelt out each time (with the exception of universally recognised acronyms such as WHO, AIDS, etc)
  • In the Results section, please give numbers as well as percentages (unless the same data are presented in the tables)
  • In the Discussion section, please use subheadings to provide structure (such as “Comparison with other studies,” “Strengths and limitations of study,” “Conclusions and policy implications”)
  • For all confidence intervals in text and tables, use format “xx to xx” (not “xx, xx” or “xx-xx”)

End matter

  • Please provide a summary points box comprising two or three points under each of the headings "What is already known on this topic" and "What this study adds"
  • Please ensure that competing interests statement adheres to our guidelines.


  • Please provide numbers (numerator-denominator), not just percentages
  • Since we cannot control where and how tables may break over the page, please consider splitting large tables into smaller ones, or dividing the width, putting subsequent columns below and repeating the row headings


  • For forest plots we need an additional Word document of the data included in the plot as well as the file containing the data plus graphic, to avoid the risk of error from retyping the data when we redraw the figures
  • Figures should fit comfortably on a typeset page