Publishing the results of a systematic review

Finally, the SLR is published as a report giving a critical summary of the secondary research. The report follows an IMRaD structure:

  • Introduction
  • Methods (with a flow diagram)
  • Results
  • Discussion

Guidelines for reporting systematic reviews can be found at:

Flow diagrams

The Methods section of an SLR report should include a flow diagram showing how studies were selected.

Flow Diagram example
Oteng-Ntim, Eugene & Varma, Rajesh & Croker, Helen & Poston, Lucilla & Doyle, Pat. (2012). Lifestyle interventions for overweight and obese pregnant women to improve pregnancy outcome: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC medicine. 10. 47. 10.1186/1741-7015-10-47.

Example of a meta-analysis flow diagram (CC BY).
Stovold E, Beecher D, Foxlee R, Noel-Storr A. Syst Rev. 2014; 3: 54.

Example of a flow diagram (Figure 1 in the paper) 

Del Rio-Pertuz G, Gutierrez JF, Triana AJ et al. Usefulness of sputum Gram stain for etiologic diagnosis in community-acquired pneumonia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Infect Dis 2019;19:403. 

Checklists to include with the report

Journals may ask for relevant reporting checklists to be included with a submission. For systematic reviews in general and for meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials, the relevant guidelines are the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines (

For meta-analyses of data from observational studies, the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) guidelines should be used ( 

There are PRISMA guideline extensions or versions for special systematic analyses, such as network meta-analyses ( and diagnostic test accuracy studies (PRISMA-DTA, 

Although scoping reviews are not strictly systematic reviews, they share many characteristics with systematic reviews and also have an associated PRISMA extension (PRISMA-ScR,


In the fifth course in this series, Publishing Systematic Reviews, learn how to publish a systematic review protocol manuscript and a final report manuscript.

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