Writing a Cochrane Review

Titles

All review titles must be formally registered with the editorial base. In order to register a title with the Cochrane ARI Group, please first contact the Assistant Managing Editor, to discuss the suitability of your proposed title. If the proposed title falls within the scope of the ARI Group, is deemed a relevant, priority topic and fills an important gap in the current literature, you will be sent a title proposal form. Preferred format for titles is [intervention] for [health problem] in [participant group/location]. An expected date of completion for the protocol must be included. Authors not submitting a protocol within six months may have their title de-registered. From the outset, review authors should be aware of their responsibility to update and maintain their reviews after publication.

If review authors have not already done so, they should obtain a copy of the Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions. 

Review authors are encouraged to work with co-authors to minimise bias in the review methodology and to contribute different points of view and areas of expertise. When choosing co-authors, review authors should consider the skills needed to complete their review, for example, expertise in statistics, health economics, epidemiology, policy making. Team work is essential for the completion of a high quality review. When more than one individual is interested in writing the same review, they are encouraged to collaborate. When this is not possible, titles are registered on a 'first come, first served' basis. Alternatively, if they have the necessary expertise, they may be asked to act as a referee for the review in question. Authorship of reviews is restricted to contributors who make an active and substantial contribution (editing and design, identification of trials and quality assessment, data extraction and analysis etc.). Once a title is registered by Cochrane ARI, a Contact Editor is appointed to guide the review authors through to publication.

Protocols

Once the title has been accepted, the review authors are encouraged to attend a workshop on protocol development, if they have not already done so. Review authors attending this workshop should have accessed the Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions and thought about their review question or developed a draft protocol. The review authors can then check the draft out of Archie, Cochrane's central server, into Review Manager, the software designed for writing Cochrane systematic reviews. The expected date of protocol submission is within six months (or as agreed with the editorial base) from title registration. An expected date of completion for the review must be provided.

The protocol will undergo an internal and external refereeing process. Internal refereeing involves feedback from the Information Specialist and the Managing Editor. External refereeing involves two content experts, a Statistcal Editor and a Consumer referee. This is an open process and comments returned to the editorial base are sent to the Contact Editor for comment and then to the review authors. We aim to complete the refereeing process as quickly as possible, ideally within four weeks. The Managing Editor will provide a summary of the comments received and ask the author team to make appropriate changes to the protocol. The review authors then have three weeks to revise and submit the protocol. The final protocol will be proof-read and edited by the Managing Editor and Wiley Copy Editor support, approved by the Co-ordinating Editor, Deputy Co-ordinating Editor and Contact Editor and submitted for inclusion in the ARI Group's Module for publication on the Cochrane Library. Permission to publish and declaration of interest forms must be completed by all review authors.

During the development of the protocol the editorial team will provide methodological advice and technical help. Although each review author is encouraged to have their own statistical support on site, the ARI Group's Statistical Editor will also assist review authors with any methodological issues or queries.

Reviews

Once the protocol has been published, the review authors start preparing the review. Advice on methodological issues and search strategies for clinical trials will be available from the editorial base. The deadline for submission of the review is 12 months from protocol publication (or as agreed with the editorial base). The finished review must be checked back into Archie. It will undergo a similar refereeing process as the protocol. We aim to complete the refereeing process as quickly as possible, ideally within four weeks. The review authors then have three weeks to revise and resubmit the review. The final review will be proof-read and edited by the Managing Editor and Wiley Copy Editor support, approved by the Co-ordinating editor, Deputy Co-ordinating Editor and Contact Editor and submitted for publication in the Cochrane Library. Permission to publish and declaration of interest forms must be completed by all review authors. Once editorial approval has been received, the edited review is submitted for inclusion in the ARI Group's Module for publication in the Cochrane Library.

During the development of the review the editorial team will provide methodological advice and technical help. Review authors are welcome to visit the editorial base at any stage. When possible, the editorial base will assist review authors in searching CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and the ARI Group's Specialised Register. The Information Specialist will attempt to obtain hard copies of trial reports for authors on request. Contact authors of up-to-date reviews receive a free CD-ROM copy of the Cochrane Library once their review has been published.

Updating Reviews

Reviews should be updated every two years from the date last searched. Review authors are responsible for scanning the medical literature at least once a year to identify any newly published trials within the scope of their review and to update their review accordingly. Review authors are also responsible for replying to any comments that have been received via the Cochrane Library's 'Feedback' facility. Any comments received will be summarised by the Feedback Editor who will negotiate with the review authors directly regarding required changes. Updated reviews will be refereed in a manner similar to that described for reviews above if required. The ARI Group has adopted the Editorial process guideline as set out in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Intervention (3.4.7).  After completion of the updating process, the review should be submitted to the editorial team for further processing. There is variation across Cochrane Review Groups in policies regarding when and if updated reviews go through the process of full editorial review. If an update involves no further analysis or change of results, it may not need to be refereed by referees.

The review author will receive support from the editorial base when updating the review. The Contact Person for a Full Review (i.e. not a Protocol) is eligible to receive a complimentary subscription to the Cochrane Library for approximately two years from when the Full Review is first published or updated. The exact expiry date of the subscription is 2.5 years from the date entered in the 'Assessed as Up-to-Date' field in the review.

If the editorial base recognises that a review has become significantly out-of-date and the responsible review authors do not take any action, the editorial base will either consider transfering responsibility for the review to a new team of review authors or withdraw the review from the Cochrane Library. The editorial base may also consider withdrawing a review from publication if it considers it to be outdated.

Cochrane policy on rejecting reviews

The Cochrane Review Group's (CRG) Co-ordinating Editor(s) can reject a Cochrane Review at any stage before publication (including unpublished protocols, unpublished Cochrane Reviews, and Cochrane Reviews that are being updated).  Authors should note:

  • Registration of a new title or drafting of the protocol for a Cochrane Review by a specific author team does not guarantee publication for that team. Publication of a protocol does not guarantee authorship or publication of the subsequent review; and publication of a Cochrane Review does not guarantee authorship or publication of an updated version.

  • Authors are free to submit elsewhere a Cochrane Review that has been rejected on the condition that no reference is made to the manuscript being a Cochrane Review. 

  • A CRG has the right to register and publish a Cochrane Review on the same topic as a rejected Cochrane Review with a different author team.

Please consult Cochrane's policy on rejecting reviews for further information.