7.5.1  Rationale for data collection forms

The data collection form is a bridge between what is reported by the original investigators (e.g in journal articles, abstracts, personal correspondence) and what is ultimately reported by the review authors. The data collection form serves several important functions (Meade 1997). First, the form is linked directly to the review question and criteria for assessing eligibility of studies, and provides a clear summary of these that can be applied to identified study reports. Second, the data collection form is the historical record of the multitude of decisions (and changes to decisions) that occur throughout the review process. Third, the form is the source of data for inclusion in an analysis.

 

Given the important functions of data collection forms, ample time and thought should be invested in their design. Because each review is different, data collection forms will vary across reviews. However, there are many similarities in the types of information that are important, and forms can be adapted from one review to the next. Although we use the term ‘data collection form’ in the singular, in practice it may be a series of forms used for different purposes: for example, a separate form for assessing eligibility of studies for inclusion in the review to facilitate the quick determination of studies that should be excluded.