Assessing publication bias in meta-analysis

Nurs Res. Jan-Feb 2003;52(1):57-60. doi: 10.1097/00006199-200301000-00009.


Background: Although publication bias is a concern when using meta-analysis, techniques for assessing for its potential appear to be underused in nursing.

Objectives: To demonstrate several methods, both graphical and statistical, of assessing for publication bias.

Methods: Four methods are described and demonstrated, ranging from the familiar fail-safe N to the trim-and-fill method, using the same contrived data set.

Results: Methods vary in their conclusion about the presence of potential publication bias in the example presented. Some limitations of the methods are noted to assist meta-analysts in determining which to consider using.

Conclusion: Given that publication bias can affect the validity of meta-analytic studies, researchers are encouraged to use more than one method to assess for bias so that clinicians and decision-makers can have the best possible information available.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Nursing Research* / methods
  • Nursing Research* / standards
  • Publication Bias / statistics & numerical data*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods