Improving Conduct and Reporting of Narrative Synthesis of Quantitative Data (ICONS-Quant): Protocol for a mixed methods study to develop a reporting guideline

Mhairi Campbell, Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, Amanda Sowden, Joanne E. McKenzie, Hilary Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Reliable evidence syntheses, based on rigorous systematic reviews, provide essential support for evidence-informed clinical practice and health policy. Systematic reviews should use reproducible and transparent methods to draw conclusions from the available body of evidence. Narrative synthesis of quantitative data (NS) is a method commonly used in systematic reviews where it may not be appropriate, or possible, to meta-analyse estimates of intervention effects. A common criticism of NS is that it is opaque and subject to author interpretation, casting doubt on the trustworthiness of a review's conclusions. Despite published guidance funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council on the conduct of NS, recent work suggests that this guidance is rarely used and many review authors appear to be unclear about best practice. To improve the way that NS is conducted and reported, we are developing a reporting guideline for NS of quantitative data. Methods We will assess how NS is implemented and reported in Cochrane systematic reviews and the findings will inform the creation of a Delphi consensus exercise by an expert panel. We will use this Delphi survey to develop a checklist for reporting standards for NS. This will be accompanied by supplementary guidance on the conduct and reporting of NS, as well as an online training resource. Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval for the Delphi survey was obtained from the University of Glasgow in December 2017 (reference 400170060). Dissemination of the results of this study will be through peer-reviewed publications, and national and international conferences.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere020064
Number of pages5
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2018


  • evidence synthesis
  • health policy

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