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Research Methods & Reporting

Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015: elaboration and explanation

BMJ 2015; 349 doi: (Published 02 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;349:g7647

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  1. Larissa Shamseer1,
  2. David Moher1,
  3. Mike Clarke2,
  4. Davina Ghersi3,
  5. Alessandro Liberati (deceased)4,
  6. Mark Petticrew5,
  7. Paul Shekelle6,
  8. Lesley A Stewart7
  9. the PRISMA-P Group
  1. 1Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and University of Ottawa, Canada
  2. 2Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland
  3. 3National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia
  4. 4University of Modena, Italy
  5. 5London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
  6. 6Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center, USA
  7. 7Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, UK
  1. Correspondence to: L Shamseer lshamseer{at}


Protocols of systematic reviews and meta-analyses allow for planning and documentation of review methods, act as a guard against arbitrary decision making during review conduct, enable readers to assess for the presence of selective reporting against completed reviews, and, when made publicly available, reduce duplication of efforts and potentially prompt collaboration. Evidence documenting the existence of selective reporting and excessive duplication of reviews on the same or similar topics is accumulating and many calls have been made in support of the documentation and public availability of review protocols. Several efforts have emerged in recent years to rectify these problems, including development of an international register for prospective reviews (PROSPERO) and launch of the first open access journal dedicated to the exclusive publication of systematic review products, including protocols (BioMed Central’s Systematic Reviews). Furthering these efforts and building on the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses) guidelines, an international group of experts has created a guideline to improve the transparency, accuracy, completeness, and frequency of documented systematic review and meta-analysis protocols—PRISMA-P (for protocols) 2015. The PRISMA-P checklist contains 17 items considered to be essential and minimum components of a systematic review or meta-analysis protocol.

This PRISMA-P 2015 Explanation and Elaboration paper provides readers with a full understanding of and evidence about the necessity of each item as well as a model example from an existing published protocol. This paper should be read together with the PRISMA-P 2015 statement. Systematic review authors and assessors are strongly encouraged to make use of PRISMA-P when drafting and appraising review protocols.


  • Dedication: The PRISMA-P 2015 initiative is dedicated to our colleague Alessandro Liberati (1954–2012), who passed away while PRISMA-P 2015 was under development and whose contributions to this work were invaluable.

  • The PRISMA-P steering committee thank the following staff from DM’s research group at OHRI: Jodi Peters for her efforts organizing the PRISMA-P consensus meeting; Michael Zhao for his assistance in preparing documents for the PRISMA-P meeting; Mohammed Ansari for valuable input and feedback throughout the process; and Justin Thielman for his assistance collating group comments during preparation of the PRISMA-P manuscripts.

  • Members of the PRISMA-P group (listed alphabetically): Douglas G Altman, Centre for Statistics in Medicine (CSM), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Alison Booth, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), University of York, York, UK; An-Wen Chan, Women’s College Research Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Stephanie Chang, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, USA; Mike Clarke, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, Ireland; Tammy Clifford, Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), Ottawa, Canada; Kay Dickersin, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Matthias Egger, Institut für Sozial-und Präventivmedizin; Davina Ghersi, National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra, Australia; Peter C Gøtzsche, Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark; Jeremy M Grimshaw, Canadian Cochrane Centre and Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), Ottawa, Canada; Trish Groves, The BMJ, London, UK; Mark Helfand, AHRQ EPC Scientific Resource Center, Portland VA Research Foundation, Portland, USA; Julian Higgins, School of Social and Community Medicine, Bristol, UK; Toby Lasserson, Cochrane Editorial Unit, London, UK; Joseph Lau, Center for Evidence-based Medicine, Brown University, Providence, USA; Alessandro Liberati, University of Modena, Modena, Italy; Kathleen Lohr, Research Triangle Institute-University of North Carolina EPC, Research Triangle Park, USA; Jessie McGowan, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; David Moher, Clinical Epidemiology Program, OHRI and University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Cynthia Mulrow, Annals of Internal Medicine, San Antonio, USA; Melissa Norton, PLoS Medicine, London, UK; Matthew Page, Monash University, Australia; Mark Petticrew, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK; Margaret Sampson. Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Canada; Holger Schünemann, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Larissa Shamseer, Clinical Epidemiology Program, OHRI and University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Paul Shekelle, Southern California EPC, Los Angeles, USA; Iveta Simera, CSM, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Lesley A Stewart, CRD, University of York, York, UK; William Summerskill, The Lancet, London, UK; Jennifer Tetzlaff, Clinical Epidemiology Program, OHRI, Ottawa, Canada; Thomas A Trikalinos, Center for Evidence-based Medicine, Brown University, Providence, USA; David Tovey, The Cochrane Library, London, UK; Lucy Turner, Clinical Epidemiology Program, OHRI, Ottawa, Canada; Evelyn Whitlock, Kaiser Permanente Research Affiliates EPC, Portland, Oregon, USA.

  • Contributors: DM, LS, MC, DG, AL, MP, PS, and LAS conceived of this paper. DM and LS drafted the article and all authors critically revised it for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final version of this article. DM is the guarantor of this work.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: (1) support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, USA (Contract No HHSA 290 2007 10059 I) and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (Reference No 114369) for this work; this manuscript does not reflect the opinions of either agency; one author, SC, is an employee of AHRQ. (2) No financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years (3) MC, DG, DM, MP, and LAS are members of the Advisory Board for PROSPERO. TG is the deputy editor of The BMJ and was not involved in the handling of or the decision to publish this manuscript.

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