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Physical Therapy

Guide to locating research evidence and tools for Physical Therapy students and faculty.

Guidelines & Standards

Health Sciences

Social Sciences

Reporting Standards

Writing & Registering a Review Protocol

Writing a Protocol

A protocol is a written document that acts as an a priori plan for your evidence synthesis project.  Beginning your project with a clear plan is important, even if the methods change along the way. 

If your methods (e.g., search queries, inclusion/eligibility criteria) do change after you finish your protocol, you should document those changes in your final manuscript. For instance, completed Cochrane reviews often have a section titled 'Differences between protocol and review’.

Protocols generally contain sections for:

  • Background literature review
  • Review question
  • Criteria for inclusion/exclusion of studies
  • Types of studies, populations, interventions/exposures, outcome measures
  • Search strategy for identification of studies
  • Study selection methods
  • Assessment of methodological quality (if applicable)
  • Data extraction and synthesis
  • Timeframe for conducting the review

For systematic reviews, PRISMA provides guidance for preparing a protocol, as does the Joanna Briggs Institute's Manual for Evidence Synthesis.  

For scoping reviews, section 11.2 in the JBI Manual outlines protocol development

Registering a Protocol

Once you've written the protocol for your evidence synthesis, consider publishing or registering it.  Making the protocol publicly available, through publication or registration, improves research transparency, and can help avoid unnecessary duplication of work around the same review question.  

Publishing a Protocol

Many journals will publish a protocol for research, including systematic reviews.  See the 'Information for Authors' or 'Submissions' sections of journal's websites to determine what kind of articles they publish.  

Examples of Journals that Publish Protocols


McGill Library. (2022). Guides: Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and Other Knowledge Syntheses: Developing the protocol. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://libraryguides.mcgill.ca/knowledge-syntheses/protocol