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Psychol Bull. 2009 Mar;135(2):173-8; discussion 179-82. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.135.2.173.

Use and misuse of the consolidated standards of reporting trials (CONSORT) guidelines to assess research findings: comment on Coyne, Stefanek, and Palmer (2007).

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford UNiversity School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5718, USA.


The basic principles underlying randomized clinical trials have been known for more than 50 years. The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidelines, published in 1996 and based on those principles, are a valuable guide to what needs to be reported from any trial within word-limit constraints, but they do not provide guidelines to the decisions that have to be made to generate a trial with credible results. Using these guidelines as do J. C. Coyne, M. Stefanek, and S. C. Palmer (2007) is a misinterpretation of their purpose. Furthermore, Coyne et al. misrepresented the methods and findings of studies of the effects of psychosocial intervention on cancer survival. These errors are systematically reviewed. The results of these questionable analyses led Coyne et al. to recommend stopping research in an area that may be highly productive. Recent developments in the field are summarized. It is a mistaken and dangerous conclusion to declare this or other areas of scientific research off limits.

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