Improving the reporting and conduct of narrative synthesis of quantitative data (ICONS-Quant): a pilot of the ICONS-Quant tool

Workshop category: 

  • Qualitative evidence synthesis methodology
Date and Location


Sunday 16 September 2018 - 11:00 to 12:30


Contact persons and facilitators

Contact person:


Thomson H1, Campbell M2, McKenzie J3
1 Cochrane Public Health, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
2 MRC/CSO SPHSU, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
3 Monash University, Australia


Katikireddi SV1, Sowden A2
1 University of Glasgow, UK
2 University of York, UK
Target audience

Target audience: 

review authors and editors

Level of difficulty: 

Type of workshop

Type of workshop : 



Narrative synthesis (NS) of quantitative data is a common method in systematic reviews. In Cochrane Reviews, 51% include NS and 16% rely wholly on NS. However, lack of clarity around methods and transparency may raise concerns about bias in review conclusions based on NS. The ICONS-Quant (Improving the Conduct and reporting Of Narrative Synthesis of Quantitative data) project, funded by the Cochrane Strategic Methods Fund, aims to improve the transparency and reliability of NS. To achieve this we are developing tools to support authors and review users in implementing and assessing NS; this includes development of consensus-based reporting guidelines, using a Delphi survey, and development of accompanying guidance for NS. The Delphi survey started in January 2018 and a draft of the reporting items will be available in August 2018.

To introduce the ICONS-Quant reporting guidelines. To gather feedback on the ICONS-Quant reporting guidelines. To test comprehension of selected examples for use in the ICONS-Quant accompanying guidance on NS.

We will present an overview of the ICONS-Quant project and describe how the reporting guidelines were developed. This will include findings from a detailed data extraction exercise to establish current practice in Cochrane Reviews that have used NS. Specific elements of good practice examined include: reporting of methods; management and investigation of heterogeneity; transparency of links between the data and the narrative; and reflections on the limitations of the synthesis. The draft ICONS-Quant reporting guideline items will be presented along with examples from Cochrane Reviews to illustrate good reporting practice for each item.

Using small group work, participants will be asked to provide feedback on the ICONS-Quant reporting guidelines and the individual items. Specifically, participants will be asked to consider the level of comprehension of the guidelines and the selected illustrative examples, as well as the feasibility of implementing the guidelines in future Cochrane Reviews. The feedback from this workshop will be taken to the final expert panel meeting where the reporting guideline items will be finalised in September 2018.

Relevance to patients and consumers: 

The target audience of this workshop is systematic review authors. The relevance to patients and consumers is that the improved reporting and conduct of narrative synthesis aims to improve the usefulness of systematic reviews for patients and consumers by producing reviews which better represent the evidence. It aims to do this by facilitating the application of rigorous methods for reviews which incorporate diverse sources of evidence. This should help make use of best available evidence and reduce the number of reviews which draw conclusions indicating that nothing is known on a topic because a meta-analysis was not possible.