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The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Systematic Reviews

A guide to conducting a systematic review at Georgetown University Medical Center

How do I write a protocol?

The protocol serves as a roadmap for your review and specifies the objectives, methods, and outcomes of primary interest of the systematic review. Having a protocol promotes transparency and can be helpful for project management. Some journals require you to submit your protocol along with your manuscript. 

A good way to familiarize yourself with research protocols is to take a look at those registered on PROSPERO. PROSPERO's registration form includes 22 mandatory fields and 18 optional fields which will help you to explain every aspect of your research plan. 

A protocol ideally includes the following:

  • Databases to be searched and additional sources (particularly for grey literature)
  • Keywords to be used in the search strategy
  • Limits applied to the search
  • Screening process
  • Data to be extracted
  • Summary of data to be reported

Once you have written your protocol, it is advisable to register it. Registering your protocol is a good way to announce that you are working on a review, so that others do not start working on it.

The University of Warwick's protocol template is available below and is a great tool for planning your protocol.