Conducting a Cochrane review of a complex public health topic is a considerable undertaking. The following tips and resources will help you plan and successfully complete your review.
Proposing a review
A competent authorship team that includes people with content and systematic review methodology expertise and a thorough understanding of the primary research in the chosen topic area is crucial. At this early planning stage, you may also consider recruiting a consumer to the team, to ensure the review is relevant and meaningful to the public - see here for more information.
If you are thinking of starting a review, familiarise yourself with the scope of Cochrane Public Health (CPH) review on the About Us and Our Reviews pages. Please read the information Managing expectations: what does Cochrane expect of auhors, and what can authors expect of Cochrane?
Cochrane defines knowledge translation (KT) as the process of supporting the use of health evidence from our high quality, trusted Cochrane Reviews by those who need it to make health decisions.
- Dissemination Plan. To support KT, CPH has developed a Dissemination Plan to help your author team to start thinking about and planning your content and strategies for dissemination of review findings. It is important to think about dissemination early in the review process (at protocol stage) as there is information you may be able to collect during review production that will be crucial to implementing an effective and well-targeted dissemination/communications strategy, come review publication time.
- Review Advisory Group guidance is also available if you are considering setting up an advisory group to inform the parameters of your Cochrane protocol. Cochrane provides a learning resource to support authors getting people involved in the production of their reviews.
- Also see this section on Making Systematic Reviews Policy Relevant.
Branding and Acknowledgement
At a minimum we recommend that your product:
- Mentions that the information is from a Cochrane Review
- Makes it clear that the review was developed through CPH. This can be signalled via an acknowledgement statement and/or placement of our logo on dissemination products. Please email CPH KT manager at Meghan Finch (email@example.com) to request logo.
Ideally, your dissemination product would also:
- Explain what sort of organisation Cochrane is (i.e. an international, independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation). Do this either as part of your dissemination product, or through a link. (e.g. About us | Cochrane).
- Explain what is good about Cochrane Reviews (i.e., high-quality methods, policies regarding conflict of interest, keeping reviews up to date, etc.). Do this either as part of your dissemination product, or through a link.
For additional resources, see our KT page.
The Cochrane Training website has extensive training resources for Cochrane authors, including interactive online training, a series of regular webinars and information about face-to-face training events near you. All resources are free for Cochrane authors, including the Cochrane Interactive Learning online course. Contact your local Cochrane Centre for more information about local training.
- Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. A new edition was released in 2019. New chapters of particular interest to public health reviews include:
- Chapter 3 and Chapter 9 - planning your comparisons, subgroups and outcome selection ahead of time - especially useful for multi-component interventions and reviews expecting a lot of variation in included studies.
- Chapter 12 - synthesis methods when meta-analysis cannot be used.
- Chapter 16 - Equity and specific populations.
- Chapter 17 - Intervention complexity.
- Chapter 24 and Chapter 25 - Including non-randomised studies.
- A summary of key changes since the 2008 version.
- Methodological expectations of Cochrane intervention reviews (MECIR) - All Cochrane authors should be familiar with and follow these minimum expectations. Consult the relevant section when you are:
- A checklist and guide for defining the questions to be addressed in the synthesis of public health intervention reviews - click here for webinar
- Using GRADE to assess the certainty of the evidence.
Cochrane Training has a collection of introductory resources on GRADE and a module covering this topic in the Cochrane Interactive Learning Course.
- Excellent guides on 'How to GRADE' outcomes and 'Describe Results' to incorporate GRADE assessments, has been developed by Cochrane Consumers and Communication Group.
- Creating Summary of Findings (SOF) tables.
An excellent webinar series for Using GRADE and the GRADEpro GDT online software in your Cochrane Review will be very useful to CPH authors (see in particular Presenting narrative outcomes in ‘Summary of findings’ table).
- Preferred and accepted risk of bias tools for assessing bias in non-randomised studies of interventions - click here for webinar (Michele Hilton-Boon, CPH Methods editor)
- Software. Cochrane review are completed and submitted for editorial review using RevMan Web. Other useful software tools that are free for Cochrane authors include:
- Synthesis Without Meta-analysis (SWiM). Where meta-analysis is not possible (for example, when a review's included studies do not report the required data), several methods other than meta-analysis can be used to synthesise quantitative results, or to provide structured summaries of results. Authors should be familiar with these methods and avoid unstructured text-based descriptions of results, which can risk selectively focusing on some results over others and introducing bias to the review's conclusions. Guidance is available on how to plan and use these methods:
- Synthesis Without Meta-Analysis (SWiM) reporting guideline and resources
- Cochrane Training interactive learning module: Synthesis Without Meta-analysis (SWiM) reporting guideline
- Chapter 12 of the Cochrane Handbook
- Developing your implications for research section - useful webinar here
Good practice & common errors – A Cochrane online training module that highlights the most common errors and points of good practice identified from submitted reviews. Take the quiz to check your knowledge, or work through the modules for a refresher.
The Cochrane Editorial and Publishing Policy Resource brings together Cochrane's editorial and publishing policies as well as general information about the editorial and publishing processes and the published products, including The Cochrane Library.