Systematic Review Reporting - Writing concisely and precisely
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Professional Medical Publications
Chien PFW, Khan KS. Systematic Review Reporting - Writing concisely and precisely. Pak J Med Sci. 2023;39(2):317-322. doi: [https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.39.2.7428]
Systematic reviews rank at the top of the evidence hierarchy. Concise writing implies drafting the systematic review article succinctly, i.e. using as few words to express as full an extent of the research effort as possible. Precise writing means drafting the text with accuracy especially with respect to the methodological and statistical aspects. The Abstract ought to be succinct and structured to allow for editors, peer reviewers and readers to get the gist of the key aspects of the systematic review with a quick read. The readership needs to be able to critically appraisal systematic reviews for their internal and external validity rapidly. The Abstract also needs to be standalone, representing an independent summary that can be fully understood without the need for reading the full paper. The standard structure of the main text of a scientific article called IMRaD (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) applies equally to systematic reviews in the same way as it does to any other kinds of research manuscripts whether related to laboratory experiments or clinical trials. Restricting the word count limits to those imposed by journals may at first seem difficult, even unfair, to systematic reviewers. However, with the availability of online appendices to transparently and fully report the details of the methods, results and other aspects of the work undertaken allows for a succinct print or PDF article. Writing a shorter manuscript is more effortful than writing a longer report. This commentary is aimed at novice systematic reviewers to help them learn the written and unwritten writing rules in order to assist them in producing impactful publications to support evidence-based medicine.