Reviewing textbook Guidelines for Reporting Health Research: A User’s Manual

Poor reporting plagues scientific literature, severely limiting the usability and usefulness of published research results which impacts patient care. Following the recent publication of guidelines to help resolve this issue, Dr Hayley Tyrer reveals her thoughts on this textbook, and how it could be used.

The reporting of scientific research is “as an important a part of a study as its design or analysis” and this textbook opens by discussing the importance of transparent reporting of health research.

Developing guidelines

A variety of systematic reviews have uncovered severe shortcomings in reporting health research, including inadequately described study methods and ambiguous, incomplete or selective reporting of study findings.

Consequently, reporting guidelines have been developed to address the problem of biased and inadequate reporting in the research literature. This textbook discusses the conception and development of reporting guidelines in health research and explains how to use them effectively.

At their core, these guidelines are essentially a checklist for researchers, peer reviewers and journal editors alike, describing the minimum information deemed necessary for inclusion in research manuscripts so that readers can draw an informed conclusion.

More about the book’s content

Book cover

There are a number of chapters within this book devoted to exploring some of the most commonly used reporting guidelines for health research. These range from guidelines for randomized controlled trials through to reporting genetic association studies.

I found the book to be well written and chapters could easily be read as stand-alone items if required, due to each chapter dealing with a single guideline or idea. The inclusion within each chapter of development details, the actual checklist, and information pertaining to endorsement and possible limitations of the guideline were particularly useful.

Unfortunately, due to the large number of guidelines that have been developed (over 200 listed in 2014, with more in development) it is clearly not possible for all the guidelines to be discussed within the textbook.

However, readers are referred to the EQUATOR network library for a comprehensive list of all the guidelines.

Further, due to the continual improvement and evolution of reporting guidelines and encouragement by the textbook author’s for the research world to contribute to their development, it is recommended to consult these online resources for the most current versions.

What did I think of the book?

On a personal level, I found the included examples illustrating good and bad reporting versus good and bad conduct, particularly useful. The closing chapters outlining how to report statistical analyses within research manuscripts and tips for the presentation of figures and clinical images in scientific manuscripts were also excellent.

I certainly will be referring to this textbook (and the guidelines!) when I write manuscripts or peer review in the future, and will be encouraging colleagues to do the same.

I feel that these chapters would be an extremely useful resource for early career scientists, and I will certainly be pointing students in this direction.

After finishing this textbook I reflected on the scientific writing training that I have received and my own understanding of reporting guidelines.

I certainly feel that awareness of reporting guidelines is increasing in academia but I agree with the authors that we all have a role to play in encouraging their use, so that eventually they form a natural part of the reporting process.

For my part, I certainly will be referring to this textbook (and the guidelines!) when I write manuscripts or peer review in the future, and will be encouraging colleagues to do the same.

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