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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009 Jul;106(27):456-63. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2009.0456. Epub 2009 Jul 3.

Systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses: part 6 of a series on evaluation of scientific publications.

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  • 1Institut für Medizinische Biometrie, Epidemiologie und Informatik, Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 55101 Mainz, Germany.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Because of the rising number of scientific publications, it is important to have a means of jointly summarizing and assessing different studies on a single topic. Systematic literature reviews, meta-analyses of published data, and meta-analyses of individual data (pooled reanalyses) are now being published with increasing frequency. We here describe the essential features of these methods and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

METHODS:

This article is based on a selective literature search. The different types of review and meta-analysis are described, the methods used in each are outlined so that they can be evaluated, and a checklist is given for the assessment of reviews and meta-analyses of scientific articles.

RESULTS:

Systematic literature reviews provide an overview of the state of research on a given topic and enable an assessment of the quality of individual studies. They also allow the results of different studies to be evaluated together when these are inconsistent. Meta-analyses additionally allow calculation of pooled estimates of an effect. The different types of review and meta-analysis are discussed with examples from the literature on one particular topic.

CONCLUSIONS:

Systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses enable the research findings and treatment effects obtained in different individual studies to be summed up and evaluated.

KEYWORDS:

clinical research; epidemiology; literature search; meta-analysis; systematic review

Comment in

PMID:
19652768
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2719096
Free PMC Article

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