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Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are a key element of evidence-based healthcare, yet they remain in some ways mysterious. Why did the authors select certain studies and reject others? What did they do to pool results? How did a bunch of insignificant findings suddenly become significant? This paper, along with a book that goes into more detail, demystifies these and other related intrigues.
Various disciplines have shown commitment to research reproducibility including the adoption of replicable search methodologies. With the development of reporting checklists and guidelines for systematic reviews, authors are expected to transparently report search strategies. Replicable search strategies are critical since the included studies will be screened for inclusion in some form of evidence synthesis which could have practice and policy implications. In cases where search strategies miss germane literature, studies could face criticism and difficulties in peer review. Search strategies containing non-alphanumeric or special characters may not retrieve pertinent literature due to a search platform's capacity for handling said characters. In this study, 40 platforms were tested using quotation characters and the absence of said characters to investigate platform behavior. This study found that 42.5% platforms ignored curly quotation marks and interpreted the test terms as a phrase, 30% of the platforms completed the phrase search, and one platform flagged curly quotation marks as an unsupported character.
This practical guidance document aims to address recent quality issues of systematic reviews reported from food related topics by encouraging:
-Clear and unbiased reporting
-Following standard practices of the methodology
-Using necessary and appropriate tools and technologies