Reporting guidelines

What is this about?

What should be included within research reports? Reporting guidelines are consensus-based recommendations for minimum standards of reporting. They are structured and simple tools for (health) researchers to be used during the writing process. The EQUATOR Network defines a reporting guideline as“[a] checklist, flow diagram, or structured text to guide authors in reporting a specific type of research, developed using explicit methodology.” (1)

Why is this important?

Reporting guidelines are essential in disseminating research results and supporting best research practices. Using guidelines will lead to more complete papers, increasing the quality of papers at the same time. There are several ethical advances related to using guidelines, such as fairly using resources, minimizing risk of harm and maximizing benefit of research (2). As a result this might lead to a reduce in research waste. The aim of a reporting guideline is to ensure that, for instance, readers understand the texts, research can be replicated by others, that the research can be included in a systematic review or that it can aid doctors in making clinical decisions. A reporting guideline includes at least a clear list of what should appear in a paper and how that list was developed (1).

For whom is this important?

Researchers, Research institutions, Policy makers, Supervisors, Postdocs, Journal publishers, Journal editors, Junior researchers, Senior researchers, Doctoral students, Professors

What are the best practices?

There are hundreds of different reporting guidelines which an author can choose from. Selecting the right guideline seems difficult, but has been made surprisingly easy with the use of a few tools. This flowchart depicts in several easy steps which of the most common research methods (i.e. systematic review, randomised trials, observational studies) match a reporting guideline. If you have a more specific study, this reporting guideline wizard was developed to reveal which guideline you can use. Please visit the EQUATOR Network for more information.


(1) What is a reporting guideline. Available at:

(2) Nicholls, S. G., Langan, S. M., Benchimol, E. I., & Moher, D. (2016). Reporting transparency: making the ethical mandate explicit.BMC medicine, 14(1), 44.

Stuart G. Nicholls, Iris Lechner contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was July 4, 2019