Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Anatomy of a Cochrane Review and How to Get the Most Out of It

The Cochrane Library is a mainstay of Evidence-based Practice.  It is used to support health care decisions.  It is produced by The Cochrane Collaboration, a group of clinicians, consumers, and researchers around the world. 

  • Cochrane Reviews are considered the Gold Standard for high-quality systematic reviews in evidence-based research.

  • Abstracts for Cochrane Reviews are indexed in PubMed with links to the full-text.

  • Cochrane Reviews include completed reviews and protocols (reviews in progress).

  • Consist of detailed, structured topic reviews covering hundreds of articles. Teams of Cochrane experts complete comprehensive literature reviews, evaluate the literature, and present summaries of the findings of the best studies, evaluating the evidence--so you don't have to.

  • Published by the International Cochrane Collaboration.

Anatomy of a Cochrane Systematic Review

Cochrane Reviews are highly structured and systematic, with evidence included or    excluded on the basis of clearly explained quality criteria.                   

Every Cochrane Review contains the following parts (See sample abstract) :

  •     Abstract

  •     Synopsis

  •     Background

  •     Objectives

  •     Criteria for Considering Studies for this Review

  •     Search Strategy for Identification of Studies

  •     Methods of the Review

  •     Description of Studies

  •     Methodological Quality

  •     Results

  •     Discussion

  •     Reviewers’ Conclusions

  •     Potential Conflict of Interest

For a quick overview of the review’s findings, look at the following sections that summarize the evidence:

  •     Abstract  - summarizes the objectives, methods, results and conclusions

  •     Synopsis - a 100-word plain-language summary found directly beneath the abstract.

  •     Reviewer’s Conclusions - an overview of the most important findings and discusses the implications for practice and research.


A Note before Printing a Complete Cochrane Review:

Be aware that the full pdf version of a review may be 80 or more pages and contain info not normally considered useful in a regular journal article (data, analyses, appendices, etc).  The reviewers include as much information as possible about the evidence they examined, and exactly how and why they arrived at their conclusions.  They try to make everything as transparent as possible so that others can do their own evaluation of the evidence, if desired. Most of us don't have time to dig in that deep.

Unless you love slogging through metadata, the structured abstract or summary version will probably provide what a busy clinician needs to know about the evidence. You may not even need to go further than looking at the abstract to answer your own clinical question.

 Sample Cochrane Abstract (via PubMed)

Find the Cochrane link on the following Library pages:

Cochrane Library - Evidence Based Reviews [Direct link]

Cochrane Search Tips

Questions or comments? Contact Your Ascension Wisconsin Librarians: 
 Michele Matucheski        Kellee Selden

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