Disseminating and Reporting Review Results
The goal of the dissemination and reporting stage is both to fully document the planning and conduct of the review in manner which supports transparency, auditability and reproducibility, and to provide information appropriate to the intended the readers and users of the review recommendations.
The PRISMA-2020 guidelines were developed as a standard for reporting systematic reviews in all disciplines. Based on PRISMA-2020, the SEGRESS guidelines were developed specifically for software engineering reviews (Kitchenham, Madeyski & Budgen, 2023). The SEGRESS reviews provide guidelines that cater for different types of secondary study including quantitative systematic reviews, qualitative reviews, mixed reviews, and mapping studies. (Use the button at the bottom of the page to link to a description of SEGRESS.)
The SEGRESS guidelines support the construction of a full report for your secondary study, including the design, conduct and results of the review. In addition, there are three other aspects of the SR that need to be included in the report:
- Limitations. Including those arising from the chosen methodology (e.g., failure to adopt best practice) and limitations with respect to the evidence included in the review (e.g., lack of studies in an industry setting).
- Recommendations. Converting the outcomes of the analysis and synthesis process into recommendations or guidelines for research and practice.
- Conformance to Scientific Ethics. Reporting any external support from funding agencies or other interested parties and reporting any conflict of interest.
The SEGRESS guidelines support the construction of a full report, but as such, the report may be too long for a normal SE academic publication sources, and too complex and detailed for an industry publication source. Several additional reporting methods have been proposed to support the needs of readers from academia and industry:
- Use of Evidence Briefings to make the results of a review more readily accessible to practitioners. They report the results of a review on a single sheet of A4. They include a title summarizing the topic of the report, a clear statement of the goal of the review and a specification of the findings (i.e., conclusions and/or recommendations) arising from the review. They omit any reference to individual primary studies, or review methodology. (See (Cartaxo et al., 2018) “Towards a medium to transfer knowledge from systematic reviews to practitioners”). Evidence briefings are often used as a means of documenting the results of rapid reviews.
- Use of supplementary materials including the protocol to reduce the length of academic publications. For academic publications, a major part of the report involves specifying the methods used in the review. Furthermore, from an academic viewpoint this information is critical to achieve the goals of review auditability and reproducibility. However, as long as information can be held in a secure location and guaranteed to remain available to readers in the long term (e.g., in github), some methodological details can be omitted from the main publication.
- Using a series of documents, in order to address the needs of different readers. The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation recommend a 1-3-25 format for a systematic review report consisting of: a one-page summary of “take-home” messages; a three-page executive summary; and a more detailed report. (see (J. Lavis et al., 2009) “SUPPORT tools for evidence-informed health policy-making (STP)13: Preparing and using policy briefs to support evidence-informed policymaking”). The one page document is called a policy briefing. It includes the title of the review, the key messages from the review, characteristics of the review (such as the number of candidate primary studies and the number of primary studies) and implications of the review (see (Budgen et al., 2020), “What Support do Systematic Reviews Provide for Evidence-informed Teaching about Software Engineering Practice?”, Appendix A1) . Like an evidence briefing, a policy briefing is intended to support evidence users, but it contains more information about the systematic review itself than an evidence briefing.
Use the button below to access a summary description of SEGRESS. A fuller description can be obtained by consulting (Kitchenham, Madeyski & Budgen, 2023).