Background Clear and unambiguous reporting is essential for researchers and clinicians to be able to assess the quality of research. To enhance the quality of reporting, consensus-based reporting guidelines are commonly used.
Objectives To update and extend previous research by evaluating the more recent impact of STRICTA (STandards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture) and CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) guidelines on the quality of reporting of acupuncture trials.
Methods By random sampling, approximately 45 trials from each of five 2-year time periods between 1994 and 2015 were included in the study. Using scoring sheets based on the STRICTA and CONSORT checklist items (range 0 to 7 and 0 to 5, respectively), the distribution of items reported over time was investigated, with changes shown using scatterplots. The primary analysis used a before-and-after t-test to compare time periods. A meta-analysis investigated whether or not trials published in journals that endorsed STRICTA were associated with better reporting.
Results The study included 207 trials. Improved reporting of items over time was observed, as represented by changes in the scatterplot slope and intercept. The mean STRICTA score increased from 4.27 in the 1994–1995 period to 5.53 in 2014–2015, an 18% improvement. The mean CONSORT score rose from 1.01 in the 1994–1995 period to 3.32 in 2014–2015, an increment of 46%. There was proportionately lower reporting for items related to practitioner background (STRICTA) and for randomisation implementation and allocation concealment (CONSORT). Trials published in journals that endorsed STRICTA had statistically significantly superior reporting of both STRICTA and CONSORT items overall.
Conclusion This study has provided evidence of an improvement in reporting of STRICTA and CONSORT items over the time period from 1994 to 2015. Journals that endorse STRICTA have a better record in terms of reporting quality. Some evidence suggests that the publication of STRICTA has had a positive impact on reporting quality.
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Contributors SS designed the study, collected and analysed the data, interpreted the results and drafted the manuscript. HM supervised and guided all stages of the project, interpreted the results and contributed to the write-up. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript accepted for publication.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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