Compliance of systematic reviews in veterinary journals with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) literature search reporting guidelines

Lorraine C. Toews


Objective: Complete, accurate reporting of systematic reviews facilitates assessment of how well reviews have been conducted. The primary objective of this study was to examine compliance of systematic reviews in veterinary journals with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines for literature search reporting and to examine the completeness, bias, and reproducibility of the searches in these reviews from what was reported. The second objective was to examine reporting of the credentials and contributions of those involved in the search process.

Methods: A sample of systematic reviews or meta-analyses published in veterinary journals between 2011 and 2015 was obtained by searching PubMed. Reporting in the full text of each review was checked against certain PRISMA checklist items.

Results: Over one-third of reviews (37%) did not search the CAB Abstracts database, and 9% of reviews searched only 1 database. Over two-thirds of reviews (65%) did not report any search for grey literature or stated they excluded grey literature. The majority of reviews (95%) did not report a reproducible search strategy.

Conclusions: Most reviews had significant deficiencies in reporting the search process that raise questions about how these searches were conducted and ultimately cast serious doubts on the validity and reliability of reviews based on a potentially biased and incomplete body of literature. These deficiencies also highlight the need for veterinary journal editors and publishers to be more rigorous in requiring adherence to PRISMA guidelines and to encourage veterinary researchers to include librarians or information specialists on systematic review teams to improve the quality and reporting of searches.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.


Reproducibility of Results; Review Literature as Topic; Veterinary Medicine; Literature Search; PRISMA, Reporting Guideline; Systematic Reviews

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Copyright (c) 2017 Lorraine C. Toews, MLIS

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