Writing a Cochrane Review

Proposing and registering new review titles

All Cochrane systematic reviews must first be formally registered as titles with a Cochrane Review Group. Before submitting an application to the Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) group, please check that your proposed title falls within the ARI group's scope and check the ARI group's review list to make sure there are no published protocols or reviews, or existing registered titles, that overlap with your proposed review.

Cochrane ARI supports intervention reviews (including overviews of reviews) and diagnostic test accuracy reviews - see here for more information about types of Cochrane reviews.

Potential author teams must ensure their topic is globally and clinically relevant, and there is recent or ongoing RCT evidence or research on the subject. We favour topics that have been identified in our priority-setting project.

Cochrane is moving its editorial process to the online submission system Editorial Manager. Potential authors interested in submitting a review proposal to the ARI Group should log in to Editorial Manager at https://www.editorialmanager.com/caaec/default.aspx and select Submit New Manuscript. For more information see our instructions for authors on proposing a new title. If we are interested in your initial proposal we will invite you to submit a full review proposal via an online form within Editorial Manager.

The basic structure of a Cochrane intervention review title is "[Intervention] for [health problem]" - see here for more information on creating a review title.

Cochrane reviews have to be prepared by at least two people, and often may require more than two. An author team must have among its members the range of skills and experience needed to complete a Cochrane review to the standard required by Cochrane and that the users of Cochrane reviews have come to expect. These skills and experience include:

  • content knowledge relating to the topic of the review;
  • basic knowledge of systematic review methodology (including formulating the review question and eligibility criteria, searching and assessing the risk of bias of relevant studies) - at least one person on the team must have recent experience authoring a Cochrane review;
  • basic statistical knowledge in order to extract appropriate data, conduct meta-analyses where appropriate, and interpret and discuss the results;
  • the ability to write a scientific report of publishable standard in English;
  • project management and leadership ability within the team (usually the named Contact Person);
  • Cochrane ARI author teams must include or have access to an experienced information specialist to develop and run the search strategy.

All author teams must also comply with Cochrane's Conflict of Interest policy.

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 asked to complete a Review Proposal Form. The ARI editorial team will then decide whether to accept the proposed title for registration.

Authors should be aware that Cochrane reviews require a time commitment beyond that needed to complete most other scholarly manuscripts - writing a complete review can take one to two years, depending on the complexity of your topic and the time and resources available to your team. An expected date of completion for the protocol must be included in the Review Proposal Form. 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.

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 peer reviewer 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.

Detailed information about planning, preparing and maintaining a Cochrane intervention review can be found in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Information relating to Diagnostic Test Accuracy reviews can be found on the Cochrane Screening and Diagnostic Tests Methods Group website.

Protocols

If their title is accepted, inexperienced review authors are encouraged to attend a workshop on protocol development if they have not already done so. Many Cochrane Geographic Groups offer training workshops and the Cochrane Training website has a comprehensive range of online and international face-to-face training opportunities.

Once the title has been registered, 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. During the development of the protocol the ARI editorial team will provide advice on methodological issues and search strategies for clinical trials, as well as technical help. Although each author team is encouraged to have their own statistical support, the ARI group's Statistical Editors can also assist review authors with methodological issues or queries.

The expected date of protocol submission is within six months from title registration (or as agreed with the editorial base). An expected date of completion for the full review must also be provided.

The completed draft protocol will undergo an internal and external peer review process. Internal review involves feedback from the Information Specialist and the Managing Editor. External refereeing involves two content experts, a Statistical 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 publication in the Cochrane Library.

Permission to publish and declaration of interest forms must be completed by all review authors before the protocol can be published.

Reviews

Once the protocol has been published, the review authors start preparing the review. The ARI editorial team will provide advice on methodological issues and search strategies for clinical trials, as well as technical help. Review authors are welcome to visit the editorial base at any stage.

The deadline for submission of the review is 12 months from protocol publication (or as agreed with the editorial base).

When the completed draft review is checked back into Archie for editorial approval it will undergo a similar peer reviewer 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 all forms have been completed, the full review will be published in the Cochrane Library.

Updating reviews

Cochrane reviews should be assessed periodically to determine whether an update is needed. ARI 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.

The decision to update is made on a case-by-case basis and should be based on the continuing importance of the review question to decision makers and the availability of new data or new methods that would have a meaningful impact on the review findings.

Reviews may also be updated in response to comments received via the Cochrane Library's 'Feedback' facility. Comments will be sent to the ARI Feedback Editor who will negotiate with the review authors directly regarding required changes and whether an update or amendment is required.

After completion of the updating process, the review should be submitted to the editorial team for further processing. If an update involves no further analysis or change of results, it may not need to be peer reviewed. Updated reviews will be refereed in a manner similar to that described for reviews above if required.

The review authors will receive support from the editorial base when updating the review.

If the editorial base recognises that a review has become significantly out-of-date and the responsible review authors are unable to update the review, the editorial base will consider transfering responsibility for the review to a new team of review authors. 

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.