Methods reporting that supports reader confidence for systematic reviews in psychology: assessing the reproducibility of electronic searches and first-level screening decisions.
Keywords:Systematic reviews, psychology, reproducibility, electronic search reporting, search methods, confidence
Recent discussions and research in psychology show a significant emphasis on reproducibility. Concerns for reproducibility pertain to methods as well as results. We evaluated the reporting of the electronic search methods used for systematic reviews (SR) published in psychology. Such reports are key for determining the reproducibility of electronic searches. The use of SR has been increasing in psychology, and we report on the status of reporting of electronic searches in recent SR in psychology.
We used 12 checklist items to evaluate reporting for basic electronic strategies. Kappa results for those items developed from evidence-based recommendations ranged from fair to almost perfect. Additionally, using a set of those items to represent a “PRISMA” type of recommended reporting showed that only one of the 25 randomly selected psychology SR from 2009-2012 reported recommended information for all items in the set, and none of the 25 psychology SR from 2014-2016 did so. Using a second less stringent set of items found that only 36% of the psychology SR reported basic information that supports confidence in the reproducibility of electronic searches. Similar results were found for a set of psychology SR published in 2017.
An area for improvements in SR in psychology involves fuller and clearer reporting of the steps used for electronic searches in SR. Such improvements will provide a strong basis for confidence in the reproducibility of searches. That confidence, in turn, can strengthen reader confidence more generally in the results and conclusions reached in SR in psychology.