Much biomedical research is observational. The reporting of such research is often inadequate, which hampers the assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and of a study's generalizability. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Initiative developed recommendations on what should be included in an accurate and complete report of an observational study. We defined the scope of the recommendations to cover three main study designs: cohort, case-control and cross-sectional studies. We convened a two-day workshop, in September 2004, with methodologists, researchers and journal editors to draft a checklist of items. This list was subsequently revised during several meetings of the coordinating group and in e-mail discussions with the larger group of STROBE contributors, taking into account empirical evidence and methodological considerations. The workshop and the subsequent iterative process of consultation and revision resulted in a checklist of 22 items (the STROBE Statement) that relate to the title, abstract, introduction, methods, results and discussion sections of articles. Eighteen items are common to all three study designs and four are specific for cohort, case-control, or cross-sectional studies. A detailed Explanation and Elaboration document is published separately and is freely available on the web sites of PLoS Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology. We hope that the STROBE Statement will contribute to improving the quality of reporting of observational studies.