11.5.3  General template for ‘Summary of findings’ tables

While there may be good reasons for modifying the format of a ‘Summary of findings’ table for some reviews, a standard format for them has been developed with the aim of ensuring consistency and ease of use across reviews, inclusion of the most important information needed by decision makers, and optimal presentation of this information. Standard Cochrane ‘Summary of findings’ tables therefore include the following six elements using a fixed format (see Figure 11.5.a).

  1. A list of all important outcomes, both desirable and undesirable.

  2. A measure of the typical burden of these outcomes (e.g. illustrative risk, or illustrative mean, on control intervention).

  3. Absolute and relative magnitude of effect (if both are appropriate).

  4. Numbers of participants and studies addressing these outcomes.

  5. A grade of the overall quality of the body of evidence for each outcome (which may vary by outcome).

  6. Space for comments. 


As a measure of the magnitude of effect, for dichotomous outcomes the table will usually provide both a relative measure (e.g. risk ratio or odds ratio) and measures of absolute risk. For other types of data, either an absolute measure alone (such as difference in means for continuous data) or a relative measure alone (e.g. hazard ratio for time-to-event data) might be provided. Where possible, however, both relative and absolute measures of effect should be provided. Reviews with more than one main comparison require separate ‘Summary of findings’ tables for each comparison. Figure 11.5.a provides an example of a ‘Summary of findings’ table.


A detailed description of the contents of a 'Summary of findings table' appears in Section 11.5.6.