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Good review practice: a researcher guide to systematic review methodology in the sciences of food and health

Constructing a review protocol

Constructing a review protocol

The review protocol begins with the title of the review which is a clear statement of the review question. A clear title will aid future discovery of the review. 

The protocol follows with a background section which briefly describes the rationale for conducting the review. It should summarise what is already known as well as uncertainties about the question that the review is going to answer. It should clearly define the key elements of the review question and the scope. These may include defining specific aspects of the intervention questions under review, subcategories of the outcomes for inferring causality, assumptions leading the anticipated outcomes of a theory, specific aspects of the target populations for test accuracy questions and in general specific definitions of the health condition, system, food products or compound, service or program that is intended to be reviewed. 

The protocol document should present a balanced specification of the key elementsscope and explain the outcomes as much as possible, in particular when review topics involve complex elements.1

Institutional requirements and specific reviews

There are clear instructions on how key aspects of the reviews should be defined for prominent types of reviews such as Cochrane Reviews in clinical disciplines and Environmental Evidence (Centre for Environmental Evidence) and EPPI-SCIE reviews in social and environmental sciences. These guidelines provide detailed information about specific requirements needed for various research domains (e.g., prevention) and review types (e.g., effectiveness of interventions) and should be followed to keep the methods of conduct consistent with underlying principles of related disciplines.