A protocol is your plan for carrying out your knowledge synthesis. It presents the rationale for carrying out the project and clearly states the aims of the work. The protocol describes the process for selecting research for inclusion, including the provision of explicit criteria for assessing reports for inclusion and for analyzing the included reports. Hence, it is an internal document that helps team members work together more smoothly. But it also is a hedge against bias by clearly stating the rules of the game before any work has begun. A protocol makes it more difficult to alter selection patterns based on perceived results. Beyond acting as a roadmap for your research, protocols, when registered or published in some way, allow others to see your research plan, establishing priority and reducing the risk of duplicate research.
We require a completed protocol before we will carry out final searches on any knowledge synthesis project. We encourage you to use this template, which is based on the PRISMA-P checklist (Moher D, et al. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Syst Rev. 2015;4(1):1. PMID: 25554246.)