Background: High-quality trials have the potential to influence clinical practice. Methods: Ten otolaryngology journals with the highest 2011 impact factors were selected and publications from 2010 were extracted. From all medical journals, the 20 highest impact factor journals were selected, and publications related to otolaryngology for 2010 and 2011 were extracted. For all publications, the reporting quality and risk of bias were assessed. Results: The impact factor was 1.8-2.8 for otolaryngology journals and 6.0-101.8 for medical journals. Of 1500 otolaryngology journal articles, 262 were therapeutic studies; 94 had a high reporting quality and 5 a low risk of bias. Of 10 967 medical journal articles, 76 were therapeutic studies; 57 had a high reporting quality and 8 a low risk of bias. Conclusion: Reporting quality was high for 45 per cent of otolaryngology-related publications and 9 per cent met quality standards. General journals had higher impact factors than otolaryngology journals. Reporting quality was higher and risk of bias lower in general journals than in otolaryngology journals. Nevertheless, 76 per cent of articles in high impact factor journals carried a high risk of bias. Better reported and designed studies are the goal, with less risk of bias, especially in otolaryngology journals.