Pragmatic evaluation of methods for retrieving unpublished information on comparator interventions in a systematic review of smoking cessation trials.
Javornik N., Powell DJH., Eismaa MC., Johnston M., Campbell MK., Hartmann-Boyce J., Michie S., West R., Black N., de Bruin M.
OBJECTIVE: Reporting of the content and delivery characteristics of comparator interventions in published articles is often incomplete. This study examines the feasibility and validity of two methods for collecting additional information on comparator interventions from trial authors. METHODS & MEASURES: In a systematic review of smoking cessation trials (IC-Smoke), all trial authors were asked to send unpublished comparator intervention materials and complete a specially-developed comparator intervention checklist. All published and additionally obtained information from authors were coded for behaviour change techniques (BCTs) and other characteristics (type of comparator, provider, provider training, delivery mode and treatment duration). To assess representativeness, we assessed the amount of additional information obtained from trial authors compared with the amount that was published. We examined known-group and convergent validity of comparator intervention data when using only published or also unpublished information. RESULTS: Additional information were obtained from 91/136 (67%) of trial authors. Representativeness, known-group and convergent validity improved substantially based on the data collected by means of the comparator intervention checklist, but not by requesting authors to send any existing comparator materials. CONCLUSIONS: Requesting authors for unpublished comparator intervention data, using specially-developed checklists and unpublished materials, substantially improves the quality of data available for systematic reviews.