A meta-analysis is defined by Haidlich (2010) as:
"a quantitative, formal, epidemiological study design used to systematically assess previous research studies to derive conclusions about that body of research. Outcomes from a meta-analysis may include a more precise estimate of the effect of treatment or risk factor for disease, or other outcomes, than any individual study contributing to the pooled analysis" (p. 29).
According to Grant & Booth (2009), a meta-analysis is defined as a "technique that statistically combines the results of quantitative studies to provide a more precise effect of the results" (p. 94).
When to Use It: According to the Cochrane Handbook, "an important step in a systematic review is the thoughtful consideration of whether it is appropriate to combine the numerical results of all, or perhaps some, of the studies. Such a meta-analysis yields an overall statistic (together with its confidence interval) that summarizes the effectiveness of an experimental intervention compared with a comparator intervention" (section 10.2).
Conducting meta-analyses can have the following benefits as according to Deeks et al. (2019, section 10.2):
The following resource provides further support on conducting a meta-analysis.
Cochrane Training: Chapter 10: Analysing data and undertaking meta-analyses - Provides a comprehensive overview on meta-analyses.
PRISMA Checklist - This 27-item checklist (2009) ensures proper and transparent reporting for each element in a systematic review and meta-analysis. Please note that an updated version is forthcoming.
Check out the supplementary resources page for additional information on meta-analyses.
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