Skip to Main Content

Systematic and Scoping Reviews

What is a protocol ?

What is a protocol and why do you need it?

An essential part of the systematic review process is the development and registration of the protocol. The protocol for a systematic review pre-defines the rationale, objectives and the methodology for the review, without prior knowledge of the data. The protocol also includes inclusion and exclusion criteria, eligibility, search strategy, and how the studies will be assessed. 

Why are protocols important for evidence synthesis?

  • Reduce the impact of author/reviewer bias
  • Promote transparency by providing complete information about methodology and processes
  • Help avoid duplication of efforts
  • Allow for the peer review of the planned methods
  • Help in the overall planning of the review

Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion and exclusion criteria must be clearly defined and must be determined before you conduct your literature search. You will use the inclusion/exclusion criteria to screen the studies you find through the literature search.

What are inclusion and exclusion criteria?

Inclusion criteria: everything a study must have in order to be included

Exclusion criteria: factors that would make a study ineligible to be included


chart with inclusion exclusion criteria


For a checklist of items to include in your protocol, see the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P).

Registering Your Protocol