It is important to plan your research in advance of beginning your systematic search. Your research plan, or review protocol, gives direction to your project. Once it is registered, it also serves as a notification of your plans to other researchers, so that no one will attempt the same project.
Planning is also a good way to avoid bias in your research. If you begin searching without defining a research question, you may be more easily influenced by the evidence presented in existing studies. Your research question will make your search process more focused and ultimately more successful.
Your protocol is a conceptual description of every stage in your research process. It must explain your research in a way that makes it reproducible by future research teams.
A good way to familiarize yourself with research protocols is to take a look at those registered on PROSPERO. PROSPERO's registration form includes 22 mandatory fields and 18 optional fields which will help you to explain every aspect of your research plan.
Once you have written a draft of your protocol, have it peer reviewed by someone outside of your research team. If it is registered in PROSPERO, it will also be open for peer review by other researchers.
You can also register your protocol with the following organisations, all of which provide instruction on preparing your protocol for submission:
For more information on reference managers, see the Reference Management page of this guide.