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Systematic Reviews

Methods and Approaches for Synthesis and Analysis

While synthesis summarizes what the literature says, analysis assesses the strength of the evidence for drawing conclusions based on the synthesis.

Analytical Methods for Quantitative Studies

  • Meta analysis
  • Use of validity assessment
  • Checking with authors of primary studies
  • Subgroup analysis
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Fixed effects analysis
  • Random effects analysis
  • Identifying gaps
  • Risk of bias of individual studies
  • Reporting bias because of dissemination issues

Synthesis Approaches for Qualitative Studies

  • Grounded theory - constant comparison
  • Meta-ethnography
  • Meta-synthesis
  • Meta-study
  • Logical analysis
  • Data analysis techniques
  • Metaphorical analysis
  • Domain analysis
  • Hermeneutical analysis
  • Analytic induction

Adapted from Booth, A. (2016). Systematic approaches to a successful literature review (Second edition.). Sage.

Meta Analysis Steps and Considerations

Meta analysis is a statistical technique that can be used to aggregate the results of individual quantitative studies.

  1. Deciding whether to base the analysis on a fixed- or random-effects model
    • Fixed effect if the factor is assumed constant across studies and variation among studies is random
  2. Computing a summary estimate of effect (if appropriate)
    • Weighted based on precision of estimates
    • Inverse variance weighting (sample size/measurement error)
  3. Presenting the data (usually graphically)
    • Usually a “forest plot” – point estimate and confidence interval of effect in each study
  4. Evaluating possible reasons for heterogeneity of study results (i.e. why different studies produce different estimates)
    • Cochran’s Q, Higgins I2
    • Subgroup analysis, stratified analysis
    • graphical (Galbraith plot, scatterplot of effect size vs factor)
    • meta regression (I2, adjusted R2, Tau2)
  5. Searching for evidence of publication bias and evaluating the influence that individual studies have on the outcome
    • Funnel plot of each study’s SE against estimated effect
    • Tests based on funnel plot (Begg, Egger)

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