Background: Unlike a narrative review, a systematic review involves the application of scientific strategies, in ways that limit bias, to the assembly and critical appraisal of all relevant studies that address a specific clinical question. A meta-analysis is a type of systematic review that uses a statistical strategy for assembling the results of several studies into a single estimate. However, when an author submits a systematic review and meta-analysis to journals, the manuscript category between a review and original article is indistinct.
Objectives: To investigate the manuscript category of systematic reviews and meta-analysis in biomedical journals.
Methods: Biomedical journals (impact factor >6) that consider systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the field of clinical sciences for publication were included. The Instructions to Authors of biomedical journals and the article category printed on the front page of the literature were reviewed for evidence of an editorial policy on the manuscript category.
Results: 63 of 311 biomedical journals publish systematic reviews and meta-analyses of clinical issues. In the Instructions to Authors, 4.76% classified a systematic review and meta-analysis as an original article, 15.9% as a review, 20.6% as an independent type of manuscript, and 58.7% did not mention any policy on the article type for systematic review and meta-analysis. For the article category posted at the front page of the literature, 31.7% printed systematic reviews and meta-analyses as an original article, 9.52% as a review, 4.76% as a meta-analysis, and 39.7% did not reveal the article type on the front page.
Conclusions: Most of the high-impact clinical biomedical journals did not mention their policy on classification of systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the Instructions to Authors. However, a relatively large proportion of journals recognize a systematic review and meta-analysis as an original article.