A history of meta-regression: Technical, conceptual, and practical developments between 1974 and 2018

Res Synth Methods. 2019 Jun;10(2):161-179. doi: 10.1002/jrsm.1338. Epub 2019 Feb 20.


At the beginning of the development of meta-analysis, understanding the role of moderators was given the highest priority, with meta-regression provided as a method for achieving this goal. Yet in current practice, meta-regression is not as commonly used as anticipated. This paper seeks to understand this mismatch by reviewing the history of meta-regression methods over the past 40 years. We divide this time span into four periods and examine three types of methodological developments within each period: technical, conceptual, and practical. Our focus is broad and includes development of methods in the fields of education, psychology, and medicine. We conclude the paper with a discussion of five consensus points, as well as open questions and areas of research for the future.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bibliometrics / history*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Databases, Bibliographic*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Models, Statistical
  • Regression Analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sample Size
  • Software