Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are used to combine results across studies to determine an overall effect. Meta-analysis is especially useful for combining evidence to inform social policy, but meta-analyses of applied social science research may encounter practical issues arising from the nature of the research domain. The current paper identifies potential resolutions to four issues that may be encountered in systematic reviews and meta-analyses in social research. The four issues are: scoping and targeting research questions appropriate for meta-analysis; selecting eligibility criteria where primary studies vary in research design and choice of outcome measures; dealing with inconsistent reporting in primary studies; and identifying sources of heterogeneity with multiple confounded moderators. The paper presents an overview of each issue with a review of potential resolutions, identified from similar issues encountered in meta-analysis in medical and biological sciences. The discussion aims to share and improve methodology in systematic reviews and meta-analysis by promoting cross-disciplinary communication, that is, to encourage ‘viewing through different lenses’.
Davis, J., Mengersen, K., Bennett, S., & Mazerolle, L. (2014). Viewing systematic reviews and meta-analysis in social research through different lenses. SpringerPlus, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/2193-1801-3-511