Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions

July 2018: Handbook Editors' Update - Hardcopy 2nd edition due early 2019 - New chapters and content.

The new version of the Handbook is well on its way. We expect publication in early 2019 of the 2nd edition published by Wiley. Subsequent to publication we will make individual chapters in pdf available for training and academic use (login required). We will also provide access to an online version that we will update more frequently to maintain the currency of Cochrane methods. We hope to make this version available later this year from September. There are 26 chapters in the published edition covering core methods, further topics (e.g. adverse effects, qualitative research)  and those addressing special perspectives (e.g. IPD, non randomized designs). The Handbook is brought up to date with new content, new chapters and a re-structure of previous content. New content includes two new risk assessment tools for randomized and non- randomized studies, and a chapter on prospective approaches. All previous chapters are brought up to date. New chapters to this edition are:

"Assessing risk of bias due to missing results", "Undertaking network meta-analyses", "Summarising studies and preparing for synthesis", "Other methods for presenting and synthezing findings", "Equity and specific populations", and "systematic reviews of complex interventions".

Chapters about Cochrane Reviews specifically: planning, reporting, and updating are online only chapters. An updated chapter for Overviews will also be available online. 

June 2017: Handbook Editors' Update  

The Handbook editorial team is currently updating Handbook versions 5.0, 5.1 and 5.2 for a planned release of Version 6 in 2018. This is a major update. Senior Scientific Editors Julian Higgins and James Thomas have reorganized some material to include recent developments. There are also several new chapters including writing a protocol, equity and specific populations, complex interventions, network meta-analysis, and synthesizing findings using non-statistical methods. Please note following the introduction of the Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Review (MECIR) standards, we set out to produce a minor Handbook update, version 5.2 to include these standards. Due to limited editorial capacity, we only produced a limited number of chapters. These chapters are 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 21 and are available as pdf versions for Cochrane members. These chapters only include minor edits to improve clarity, some limited new material and updating. There are currently no substantive changes to methods in these chapters, we expect to include these in Version 6. For more details see the What's new? page.

Click here to browse Handbook version 5.1 online

Click here for selected new chapters from Handbook v5.2 (login required)

The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions is the official guide that describes in detail the process of preparing and maintaining Cochrane systematic reviews on the effects of healthcare interventions. The current complete version of the Handbook is 5.1 (updated March 2011), edited by Julian Higgins and Sally Green.

All authors should consult the Handbook for guidance on the methods used in Cochrane systematic reviews. The Handbook includes guidance on the standard methods applicable to every review (planning a review, searching and selecting studies, data collection, risk of bias assessment, statistical analysis, GRADE and intepreting results), as well as more specialised topics (non-randomized studies, adverse effects, economics, patient-reported outcomes, individual patient data, prospective meta-analysis, qualitative research, reviews in public health and overviews of reviews).

Official translations of the Handbook are also available in Spanish and Simplified Chinese (see links above right).

Further information is also available about the Handbook including supplementary material, information about what's new in each version, updates and corrections and more.

You can also access the Handbook in the following ways:

  • In RevMan: the Handbook can be accessed offline through the Help menu of Cochrane's review production software.
  • The MECIR standards manual links standards to their relevant Handbook chapters
  • As a textbook: Version 5.0.2 of the Handbook was published in by Wiley-Blackwell in September 2008 and is still available for sale. Note that this is no longer the most current version of the Handbook, and readers should consult the What's New section for more information.

  • Printable (PDF) versions of all chapters (Version 5.2) are available to registered Cochrane contributors (Archie login required).

Glossary of Cochrane terms

Our Glossary includes definitions of methodological and organisational terms as used by Cochrane.

Contact the Editors

For further information and for any Handbook enquiries please contact: Jackie Chandler, Handbook Managing Editor, jchandler@cochrane.org.

The Handbook editorial team now includes: Julian Higgins and  James Thomas (Senior Scientific Editors); Tianjing Li, Matthew Page and Vivian Welch (Associate Scientific Editors); Miranda Cumpston (Implementation Editor); Jackie Chandler (Managing Editor); and Laura Mellor (Editorial Assistant). The Handbook Editorial Team structure is available here [PDF]. Rachel Churchill (Senior Editor) and Toby Lasserson (Associate Scientific Editor) have stepped down and we would like to thank them both for their contributions to the Handbook.

How to cite the Handbook

Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from http://handbook.cochrane.org.

Details of how to cite individual chapters are available in each chapter.

How to link to specific sections of the Cochrane Handbook (online version)

Here you can find instructions on how to create hyperlinks for specific sections of the online version of the Cochrane Handbook.

Previous versions

Archived copies of the following previous versions of the Handbook are available:

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