New guidelines for writing abstracts will help authors summarise their research
A new extension to the PRISMA guideline on reporting systemic reviews and meta-analyses (types of studies that analyse information from many studies) will help authors to give a more robust summary (abstract) of their study and is detailed by an international group of researchers in this week's PLOS Medicine.
These guidelines for abstracts of systemic reviews and meta-analyses are important, as the abstract is the most frequently read part of most papers and these types of studies are particularly important for influencing evidence-based research.
New guidelines are necessary as despite published guidance on writing the abstract in previous guidelines (the PRISMA Statement); evaluations show that reporting of systematic reviews in journal and conference abstracts is poor.
An international group of researchers (the PRISMA for Abstracts Group) developed the new consensus-based reporting guidelines to give authors a checklist and framework for summarising their systematic review into the essentials for an abstract that will meet the needs of many readers.
The authors say: "Abstracts should not replace full articles in informing decision making, but for time-pressed readers and those with limited access to full text reports, the abstract must stand alone in presenting a clear and truthful account of the research."
They continue: "The PRISMA for Abstracts checklist will guide authors in presenting an abstract that facilitates a quick assessment of review validity, an explicit summary of results, facilitates pre-publication or conference selection peer review, and enables efficient perusal of electronic search results."
Funding: This research was supported (in part) by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Center for Biotechnology Information (National Library of Medicine). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: TL is employed by The Cochrane Collaboration. TL is an editor (unpaid) for the Cochrane Airways Group. The authors have declared that no other competing interests exist.
Citation: Beller EM, Glasziou PP, Altman DG, Hopewell S, Bastian H, et al. (2013) PRISMA for Abstracts: Reporting Systematic Reviews in Journal and Conference Abstracts. PLoS Med 10(4): e1001419. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001419
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