Social and psychological interventions are often complex. Understanding randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of these complex interventions requires a detailed description of the interventions tested and the methods used to evaluate them. However, RCT reports in criminology, education, psychology, public health, social work, and related disciplines often omit, or inadequately report, this information. The magnitude of these deficiencies is particularly striking when comparing RCT reporting quality in social and behavioural science journals to health care and medical journals. Incomplete and inaccurate reporting hinders the optimal use of research, wastes resources, and fails to meet ethical obligations to research participants and consumers.
The CONSORT Statement is a guideline widely used in medicine to help authors report RCTs. The original statement and later extensions have improved the quality of medical trial reporting, but there has been limited uptake in social and behavioural sciences, as the greater complexity of interventions in these disciplines gives rise to new issues that are not adequately addressed in existing guidelines.
Scientists who develop and evaluate social and psychological interventions need a reporting guideline that is appropriate for the trials that they conduct. To address this need, we are developing a CONSORT extension for social and psychological interventions: CONSORT-SPI. This guideline will incorporate lessons from previous extensions and other reporting guidelines, and it will include a revised checklist tailored to the unique needs of these complex interventions. To promote widespread uptake and impact, we will follow best practices for guideline development. Improved reporting will ultimately increase the usefulness of interventions by ensuring the usability of trial reports.