A protocol is a plan for how your review will be conducted. It sets out in advance:
The registration of a protocol provides a means of ascertaining that the screening, selection and reporting in a completed review are based on the pre-defined eligibility criteria and the methodological approach outlined at the outset, rather than influenced by study findings.
Utilizing the PRISMA-P guideline and checklist in completing the protocol can optimize the quality of reporting. Making protocols publicly available increases transparency and can reduce duplication of effort. This is usually done in a registry (such as Prospero) or a dedicated journals (such as Systematic Reviews, Biomed Central, BMJ Open) during the planning stages of the review.
Check the following sources for protocols or published systematic reviews on your topic:
"The gold standard for identifying reporting biases is a comparison of the completed review with its paired protocol" (Moher, D., L. Stewart and P. Shekelle. 2016. Implementing PRISMA-P: recommendations for prospective authors. Systematic Reviews 5:15. doi: 10.1186/s13643-016-0191-y)
Protocols can be registered and/or published. This allows for:
|Example of a protocol for a systematic review|
|Cotic, Z., Rees, R., Wark, P. A., & Car, J. (2016). Factors influencing the implementation, adoption, use, sustainability and scalability of eLearning for family medicine specialty training: A systematic review protocol. Systems Review, 5(1), 179.|
|Example of a protocol for a scoping review|
|Grudniewicz, A., Nelson, M., Kuluski, K., Lui, V., Cunningham, H. V., X Nie, J., . . . Upshur, R. E. (2016). Treatment goal setting for complex patients: Protocol for a scoping review. BMJ Open, 6(5), e011869.|
|Journals which publish protocols|
Guidelines specific to a scoping review:
1. Chapter 2 "Development of a JBI Scoping Review Protocol" in the: Joanna Briggs Reviewers Manual for Scoping Reviews: http://joannabriggs.org/assets/docs/sumari/Reviewers-Manual_Methodology-for-JBI-Scoping-Reviews_2015_v2.pdf
The journal Systematic Reviews has a series of articles and commentaries on the importance of PROSPERO, why registering systematic reviews makes sense, dispelling myths of protocol registration, knowledge synthesis and the CIHR, and more.
International prospective register for systematic reviews (some scoping reviews as well)
International organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of intervention in health care (can filter search results to protocols)
Campbell Collaboration Library
Systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions