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Reporting guidelines: increasing standards in clinical research reporting
  1. Sally Hopewell1,2,3,4,
  2. Iveta Simera1
  1. 1Centre for Statistics in Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2INSERM, U738, Paris, France
  3. 3AP-HP (Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris), Hôpital Hôtel Dieu, Centre d'Epidémiologie Clinique, Paris, France
  4. 4University of Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Faculté de Médecine, Paris, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sally Hopewell, Centre for Statistics in Medicine, University of Oxford, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD, UK;

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Transparent and clear reporting of research is important to enable readers to understand how a study is conducted and to assess the validity and reliability of the study findings. Failure to adequately report research findings distorts the reality of how the research was actually conducted. It prevents clinicians from applying effective interventions and can result in considerable amounts of money invested in health research being wasted.1 Incomplete or inadequate reporting of health research also has far reaching ethical implications as the individuals who consent to participate in research, and agencies that provide funding support for these investigations, do so with the understanding that the work will make a contribution to the existing knowledge.2 Clearly, new knowledge that is not disseminated, or knowledge that is disseminated in a biased way, is not making a true contribution.

Problems of poor reporting of health research

Many research studies have identified serious reporting shortcomings in published health research. These problems are widespread and range from the failure to report and publish whole research studies depending on the nature of their research findings, publication bias',3 to the selective publication (or non-publication) of specific study outcomes ‘selective outcome reporting bias’.4 Even when all study outcomes are reported, the interpretation of the study results is sometimes distorted by the authors of the primary study.5 Other problems in the reporting of health research literature include the inadequate and misleading reporting of adverse events,6 the omission of information about study methods which would allow implementation of the intervention in clinical practice,7 and the omissions from, or misinterpretation of, results in the abstracts of study publications.8 Serious deficiencies in the reporting of research have been well documented across many medical specialties and various study designs.

Systematic reviews of the health research literature are widely acknowledged as the best way …

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  • Competing interests Sally Hopewell is Senior Research Fellow and a member of the CONSORT Group and is supported by the CONSORT grant funding provided by the UK Medical Research Council. Iveta Simera is Head of Programme Development of the EQUATOR Network and is supported by the EQUATOR programme funding provided by the UK NHS National Institute for Health Research, UK Medical Research Council, Scottish Chief Scientist Office, Pan American Health Organisation, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research. None of the above funders influenced in any way the content of this article.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.