Review development: step by step

  1. Once the protocol is published, the workflow manager writes to all authors with confirmation and sends guidance for developing the full review.

  2. If required, the Information Specialist performs the searches and sends the de-duplicated results to the Contact Person, usually within two weeks of protocol publication (see our searching page).

  3. Authors are encouraged to use Covidence, the primary screening and data extraction tool for Cochrane authors. Covidence is free to use for those authoring Cochrane Reviews, and you can log in using your Cochrane account.
  4. Author team needs to convert the RevMan file from 'protocol' to 'full review' stage (see here); this automatically activates all the relevant subheadings. Authors will see the protocol text is still populated, and this needs to be amended to past tense. Any changes to the protocol (eg eligibility criteria) should be justified in the 'Differences between protocol and review' section (keep these to a minimum; see Handbook v5 chapter 4).

  5. The first draft should be submitted for editorial approval within nine months (no more than 12 months). Authors are expected to follow PaPaS and Cochrane guidance (see "Useful links" page). 

    • Substantial delays to the review development process will mean the searches need to be updated, and the results incorporated, so we encourage authors to bear this in mind. See MECIR C37: rerun or update searches for all relevant databases within 12 months before publication.
    • If you would find it useful to speak to the editorial team before starting work, please contact us and we would be happy to arrange a video call.
  6. Conflicts of Interest forms are sent out to all authors on receipt of the first draft.

  7. Authors are encouraged to start working on their dissemination plan while waiting for editorial comments (see our dissemination page for more information).
  8. The editorial team1 completes assessments (including a 'compare' check against the protocol) and returns comments to the Contact Person, usually within two months or less. At this point, the workflow manager may ask the authors to think about whether the review can be stabilised upon publication (for more information about stabilising and updating, please see our page here).

  9. Authors usually given three weeks to revise and resubmit (more time may be given if the review is particularly complex or requires substantial revisions).

  10. The editorial team reassesses the review and proceeds to peer review if appropriate (if not appropriate, the review will be sent back for further revision).

  11. We aim to complete peer review within two months; this time frame allows for the identification of peer reviewers, two weeks for each reviewer to comment, and for editorial checks and collation of comments (see here for more details about the peer review process).

    • At April 2019, the Network Editors are now providing quality screening for all of our protocols, reviews and updates. We intend to submit reviews for screening before or during peer review, but it may occur at a different stage of development (assessed on a case by case basis).
  12. Authors usually given three weeks to revise the review in light of the peer review comments and resubmit.

  13. The editorial team reassesses the review and proceeds to sign off and copy edit if appropriate (if not appropriate, the review will be sent back for further revision).

  14. We can usually expect a review to be copy edited by the Cochrane Copy Edit Support Team within two weeks, but this is variable and depends on their workload and availability, and the length/complexity of the review.

  15. Authors usually given one week to revise the review in light of the copy edit comments and resubmit.

  16. The editorial team reassesses the review and proceeds to publication if appropriate (if not appropriate, the review will be sent back for further revision).

  17. Licence for Publication forms are sent out to all authors once the workflow manager has submitted the review for publication. The review is published on the Cochrane Library within hours of receiving the last LfP form.

  18. The Managing Editor writes to all authors to confirm publication, and to confirm the next steps for the review, e.g. stabilising for X years, reassessing for updating in X years, or no update planned (see here). We will also provide support for your post-publication dissemination.

1. The Managing Editor or Assistant Managing Editor manages the editorial process (as the ‘workflow manager’) and will be the main point of contact throughout the development of the update. The Co-ordinating Editor has overall responsibility and signs off all protocols and reviews. Each review is assessed by the workflow manager at every stage. The Managing Editor or Assistant Managing Editor (whichever one is not acting as workflow manager) will also provide editorial input at specific points. Each review is assigned a Contact Editor (see Editorial board) who will provide editorial feedback throughout the development process, and the review will also be assessed by our Information Specialist and any other PaPaS editorial staff (eg clinical editor) or Cochrane members (eg Methods Group) at specific points as required. Each review is also peer reviewed by at least two external professionals and at least one consumer reviewer (see Cochrane Peer Review Policy).

These timelines are suggested as a guide; variables such as author team expertise, review complexity, number of included studies, and availability of our volunteer peer reviewers and editors, can all affect the timelines. All searches must be updated within 12 months before publication.