Reporting of study design in titles and abstracts of articles published in clinically oriented dermatology journals

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Abstract

Background

Dermatologists may have difficulty in identifying the types of study design used in published articles, hindering their ability to appraise the literature critically.

Objectives

To assess the frequency with which titles or abstracts of articles published in clinically oriented dermatology journals reported the type of study design using standard key words, including ‘randomized control trial’, ‘nonrandomized control trial’, ‘double-blind’, ‘placebo control’, ‘crossover trial’, ‘before–after trial’, ‘gold standard’, ‘blinded or masked comparison’, ‘cohort’, ‘inception cohort’, ‘validation cohort’, ‘validation sample’, ‘survey’, ‘case series’, ‘cost-effectiveness analysis’, ‘cost-benefit analysis’, ‘cost-utility analysis’, ‘cross-sectional study’ and ‘case–control’.

Methods

A cross-sectional study analysed articles published between December 2004 and November 2005 in the ‘Epidemiology and Health Services Research’ and ‘Therapeutics’ sections of the British Journal of Dermatology (BJD), in the ‘Studies’ section of the Archives of Dermatology (Arch Dermatol) and in the ‘Reports’ section of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD).

Results

In the BJD, 15 of 37 articles (40·5%, 95% confidence interval, CI 24·8–57·9%) included at least one standard key word in the title or abstract, compared with 43 of 87 articles (49·4%, 95% CI 38·5–60·4%) in the Arch Dermatol and 19 of 93 articles (20·4%, 95% CI 12·8–30·1%) in the JAAD (P < 0·001).

Conclusions

Most articles in the three journals did not report the study design used in the title or abstract. A consistent and clear indication of the design used in studies may better enable editors, reviewers and readers to assess critically articles published in clinically oriented dermatology journals.

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