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Observational Studies: Getting Clear about Transparency

In this month's Editorial, the PLOS Medicine editors announce new guidelines for researchers publishing observational research in the journal.

In the absence of evidence from clinical trials, observational studies (including case-control, cohort and cross-sectional studies) may provide the best evidence available to guide clinical practice, but unlike clinical trials, observational studies lack consistent community standards for clarity in reporting.

The editors endorse four measures to promote transparency in the analysis and reporting of observational studies: completion of established reporting checklists; commitment to data sharing; clear specification of which analyses the researchers planned and which they actually did; and provision of a prospective analysis plan, if one was used in designing the study.

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