Background: methodological reviews (MRs) are a unique form of evidence synthesis. They allow researchers to appraise and synthesize methodological information from primary or secondary studies. Since there are currently no guidelines to inform the conduct and reporting of MRs, these studies use diverse methods and nomenclature. This presents an issue of standardization and makes their retrieval from health literature databases difficult.
Objectives: to facilitate the development of reporting guidelines for methodological reviews, we aim to analyze the methodological features and reporting of MRs in the Cochrane Library.
Methods: we conducted a search of the Cochrane Library up to April 2019, restricted to 'methodology' review types. We will extract in duplicate study and reporting characteristics including nomenclature, country or primary author affiliation, number of included studies, search strategy, a priori protocol use, and sampling methods. We will use descriptive statistics and exploratory factor analysis to determine the features of MRs that are associated with high-quality reporting.
Results: we identified 36 methodology reviews: study methodology (13), study identification (9), evaluation methodology (7), review methodology (6), study validity (1). We will use core characteristics of these reviews to inform the nomenclature, typology and guidelines for the reporting of MRs. Analysis is ongoing and the full results will be available by July 2019.
Conclusions: the credibility of research depends on how studies are conducted and reported. Therefore, critical appraisal of their methodology using MRs is important. This review will inform the development of a conceptual framework of MRs, which we will assess in a Delphi consensus study of expert users. Guideline development will incorporate diverse stakeholders including authors of Cochrane MRs as expert users.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: healthcare consumers will be intimately involved in this work as expert users of MRs. Their input in the consensus phase, to determine the most important facets of reporting MRs, will be translated and incorporated in the final guideline document.