Systematic reviews and scoping reviews should have a protocol which helps to plan and outline the study methodology. The protocol should include:
Why should you complete a protocol?
A well-defined research question will help generate the list of inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Common inclusion/exclusion criteria for systematic reviews include:
The Cochrane Handbook states that inclusion criteria should be broad enough to capture all the relevant variety of publications in which the intervention has been used but narrow enough "to ensure that a meaningful answer can be obtained when studies are considered together"
These resources will help authors prepare a protocol for a systematic or scoping review.
After you write the protocol, you should register it with a review registry. There are numerous review registries available, such as PROSPERO or OSF. Registration is free and open to anyone undertaking systematic reviews. Some journals also publish systematic review protocols.
NOTE: Scoping reviews may not be registered with PROSPERO. Currently, they can be registered with the Open Science Framework (OSF) or Figshare.
OSF can be used to pre-register a systematic or scoping review protocol and to share documents such as a citation management library, search strategies, and data extraction forms. Unlike other registries, evidence synthesis author teams do not submit their protocols for review by an editorial board before they are accepted and pre-registered on OSF. Instead, create your own pre-registration.
Protocols may be eligible for publication in certain journals in certain disciplines. Here are a few examples.