11.5.1  Introduction to ‘Summary of findings’ tables

‘Summary of findings’ tables present the main findings of a review in a transparent and simple tabular format. In particular, they provide key information concerning the quality of evidence, the magnitude of effect of the interventions examined, and the sum of available data on the main outcomes. Most reviews would be expected to have a single ‘Summary of findings’ table. Other reviews may include more than one, for example if the review addresses more than one major comparison, or substantially different populations. In the CDSR, the principal ‘Summary of findings’ table of a review will appear at the beginning, before the Background section. Other ‘Summary of findings’ tables will appear between the Results and Discussion sections.

 

The planning for the ‘Summary of findings’ table comes early in the systematic review, with the selection of the outcomes to be included in (i) the review and (ii) the ‘Summary of findings’ table.  Because this is a crucial step, and one typically not formally addressed in traditional Cochrane reviews, we will review the issues in selecting outcomes here.