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A Guide to Conducting Reviews: Meta-Analysis

This LibGuide outlines some of the common types of reviews including literature, systematic, and scoping reviews, and lists some ways by which University Librarians can assist in conducting such reviews.


Definition: A specialized subset of systematic reviews, meta-analysis is a statistical technique for combining the findings from disparate quantitative studies and using the pooled data to come to new statistical conclusions. Not all systematic reviews include meta-analysis, but all meta-analyses are found in systematic reviews.

Aim: To synthesize evidence across studies to detect effects, estimate their magnitudes, and analyze the factors influencing those effects.

Key characteristics:

  • Uses statistical methods to objectively evaluate, synthesize, and summarize results.
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are undertaken by a research team rather than individual researchers to facilitate expedited review of studies and reduce researcher bias.

Strengths: Combines individual studies to determine overall evidence-based strength. Conclusions produced by meta-analysis are statistically stronger than the analysis of any single study, due to increased numbers of subjects, greater diversity among subjects, or accumulated effects and results. 

Drawbacks/Limitations: Combining data from disparate studies produces misleading or unreliable results. For a meta-analysis to be valid, all included studies must be sufficiently similar.

Source: TARG Bristol. (2017, November 13). A three minute primer on meta-analysis [Video]. YouTube.

Further Reading: e-Books