Meta-analysis is a systematic review of a focused topic in the literature that provides a quantitative estimate for the effect of a treatment intervention or exposure. The key to designing a high quality meta-analysis is to identify an area where the effect of the treatment or exposure is uncertain and where a relatively homogenous body of literature exists. The techniques used in meta-analysis provide a structured and standardized approach for analyzing prior findings in a specific topic in the literature. Meta-analysis findings may not only be quantitative but also may be qualitative and reveal the biases, strengths, and weaknesses of existing studies. The results of a meta-analysis can be used to form treatment recommendations or to provide guidance in the design of future clinical trials.
Keywords: Meta-analysis; bias; statistic.