The medical review article: state of the science
Fifty reviews published during June 1985 to June 1986 in four major medical journals were assessed in a study of the methods of current review articles. Assessments were based on eight explicit criteria adapted from published guidelines for information syntheses. Of the 50 articles, 17 satisfied three of the eight criteria; 32 satisfied four or five criteria; and 1 satisfied six criteria. Most reviews had clearly specified purposes (n = 40) and conclusions (n = 37). Only one had clearly specified methods of identifying, selecting, and validating included information. Qualitative synthesis was often used to integrate information included in the review (n = 43); quantitative synthesis was rarely used (n = 3). Future research directives were mentioned in 21. These results indicate that current medical reviews do not routinely use scientific methods to identify, assess, and synthesize information. The methods used in this systematic assessment of reviews are proposed to improve the quality of future review articles.