Objective To assess whether the completeness of reporting of health research is related to journals’ endorsement of reporting guidelines.
Design Systematic review.
Data sources Reporting guidelines from a published systematic review and the EQUATOR Network (October 2011). Studies assessing the completeness of reporting by using an included reporting guideline (termed “evaluations”) (1990 to October 2011; addendum searches in January 2012) from searches of either Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Methodology Register or Scopus, depending on reporting guideline name.
Study selection English language reporting guidelines that provided explicit guidance for reporting, described the guidance development process, and indicated use of a consensus development process were included. The CONSORT statement was excluded, as evaluations of adherence to CONSORT had previously been reviewed. English or French language evaluations of included reporting guidelines were eligible if they assessed the completeness of reporting of studies as a primary intent and those included studies enabled the comparisons of interest (that is, after versus before journal endorsement and/or endorsing versus non-endorsing journals).
Data extraction Potentially eligible evaluations of included guidelines were screened initially by title and abstract and then as full text reports. If eligibility was unclear, authors of evaluations were contacted; journals’ websites were consulted for endorsement information where needed. The completeness of reporting of reporting guidelines was analyzed in relation to endorsement by item and, where consistent with the authors’ analysis, a mean summed score.
Results 101 reporting guidelines were included. Of 15 249 records retrieved from the search for evaluations, 26 evaluations that assessed completeness of reporting in relation to endorsement for nine reporting guidelines were identified. Of those, 13 evaluations assessing seven reporting guidelines (BMJ economic checklist, CONSORT for harms, PRISMA, QUOROM, STARD, STRICTA, and STROBE) could be analyzed. Reporting guideline items were assessed by few evaluations.
Conclusions The completeness of reporting of only nine of 101 health research reporting guidelines (excluding CONSORT) has been evaluated in relation to journals’ endorsement. Items from seven reporting guidelines were quantitatively analyzed, by few evaluations each. Insufficient evidence exists to determine the relation between journals’ endorsement of reporting guidelines and the completeness of reporting of published health research reports. Journal editors and researchers should consider collaborative prospectively designed, controlled studies to provide more robust evidence.
Systematic review registration Not registered; no known register currently accepts protocols for methodology systematic reviews.