Structured abstracts, that is, abstracts that describe a study using
requisite content headings, provide more informative content. Concomitant
reporting in the text of the report might improve with structured abstract
use because of increased awareness by authors or editors of important study
areas associated with content headings.
To assess whether structured abstract use is associated with improved
reporting of randomized clinical trials.
Design and Setting.—
Survey of trial reports published the year preceding, of, and following
new use of structured abstracts, found by hand searching Archives of Ophthalmology (1992-1994) and Ophthalmology (1991-1993), as well as trial reports published concurrently without
change in abstract format (American Journal of Ophthalmology, 1991-1994).
Main Outcome Measures.—
We measured the inclusion of 56 criteria derived from Consolidated Standards
of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) descriptors (JAMA 1996;276:637-639) in the
text of each report and calculated the number of criteria included per report
and the proportion of reports including individual criteria. Reports with
structured abstracts were compared with those without, and reports published
in 1993 and 1994 in the American Journal of Ophthalmology were compared with those published in 1991 and 1992.
The mean (SEM) number of criteria included by authors was 15.8 (0.4)
per report in 125 trial reports. We found no difference in the mean number
of criteria included or the proportion of reports that included specific criteria
by journal. Following structured abstract use, there was no difference in
either the mean number of criteria per report or the proportion of reports
including a majority of criteria within each CONSORT subheading. Four criteria
were included more often and 2 less often following structured abstract use
in individual journals.
Using CONSORT descriptor criteria to evaluate reporting quality, we
found no difference in text reporting associated with structured abstract
use in the journals examined.