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Literature Reviews

What is a Meta-analysis?

A meta-analysis is similar to a systematic review.  A systematic review seeks to systematically search for, appraise, and synthesize research evidence.  A meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarize the results of these studies.  Not all systematic reviews contain meta-analysis, but all meta-analysis contains a systematic review.

According the to Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions, "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."  Benefits of a meta-analysis include improved precision, the ability to answer questions not posed by the individual studies, and to settle controversies arising from apparently conflicting studies or to generate new hypotheses.

Detailed flow diagram guideline for systematic review and meta-analysis steps











Tawfik, G.M., Dila, K.A.S., Mohamed, M.Y.F. et al. A step by step guide for conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis with simulation data. Trop Med Health 47, 46 (2019).

Deeks JJ, Higgins JPT, Altman DG (editors). Chapter 10: Analysing data and undertaking meta-analyses. In: Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.1 (updated September 2020). Cochrane, 2020. Available from

Guidance on Meta-analysis

Example Meta-analyses