What is a protocol?
A protocol is a document that serves as a work plan for your review that describes the rationale, hypothesis, and planned methods of the review. Your protocol should be prepared before you start your review, even if things change along the way. Following a protocol allows for transparency, reproducibility, and minimizes biases.
For systematic reviews, the PRISMA website provides several sources of guidance on writing a protocol.
For scoping reviews, the Joanna Briggs Institute provides guidance for writing a protocol in section 11.2 of their chapter on scoping reviews. Resources for scoping reviews can be found through the JBI Scoping Review Network.
In general, your protocol should have the following elements:
(Adapted from: Booth, A., Sutton, A. and Papaioannou, D. (2016). Defining the scope. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review, 2nd edition.)
Registering or Publishing A Completed Protocol
Once you have written your protocol, consider registering it with an organization or publishing it in a journal. Listed below are a few example resources:
PROSPERO - Initiated in early 2011, this international database allows free registration of systematic reviews of interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions in humans, for which there is a health-related outcome. At the present time, PROSPERO does not accept scoping review protocols.
More information and guidance on registering in PROSPERO can be found on their website.