Objective Forced swimming test (FST) in rodents is a widely used behavioural test for screening antidepressants in preclinical research. Translational value of preclinical studies may be improved by appraisal of the quality of experimental design and risk of biases, which remains to be addressed for FST. The present protocol of a systematic review with meta-analysis aims to investigate the quality of preclinical studies employing FST to identify risks of bias in future publications. In addition, this protocol will help to determine the effect sizes (ES) for primary and secondary outcomes according to several aspects of the FST study design. Search strategy, Screening annotation, Data management Publications reporting studies testing different classes of antidepressants in FST will be collected from Medline, SCOPUS and Web of Science databases. A broad list of inclusion criteria will be applied excluding those studies whereby FST is used as a stressor or studies reporting data from co-treatments. For assessing the quality of the included publications, the quality checklist adapted by Collaborative Approach to Meta-Analysis and Review of Animal Data from Experimental Studies will be used. If the meta-analysis seems feasible, the ES and the 95% CI will be analysed. The heterogeneity between studies will be assessed by using the χ 2 statistic with n-1 degrees of freedom. Subgroup meta-analysis (meta-regression, and if necessary, stratified regression) will be performed when possible according to characteristics of study design and study quality to assess their impact on efficacy of the treatments. In addition, funnel plotting, Egger regression, and 'trim and fill' will be used to assess the risk of publication bias. Results of this protocol will help to create rational methodological guidelines for application of FST in rodents and improve the quality and translational value of preclinical research on antidepressant discovery. Reporting A preliminary version of the present protocol has been preregistered with Systematic Review Facility (http://syrf.org.UK/). A preprint version of the current protocol has been registered with Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/9kxm4/). Results will be communicated in scientific meetings and peer-reviewed journals. We plan to conduct an anonymous and online survey within the scientific community to ask researchers about their perception of risk of bias and their experience with the publication of negative results.