Many medical journals have guidelines on the process for publishing a systematic review/meta-analysis. Similar to CONSORT guidelines we have seen earlier as related to reporting on clinical trials, there is a PRISMA checklist for standardized reporting of meta-analyses. Check it out!
The Cochrane Collaboration has been influential in improving the methodology for systematic reviews. Cochrane Reviews are based on the best available information about healthcare interventions. They explore the evidence for and against the effectiveness and appropriateness of treatments (medications, surgery, education, etc) in specific circumstances. This is an excellent resource to explore.
How to Evaluate an Overview/Meta-analysis Section
Below are questions that we may ask as we evaluate the value of a particular meta-analysis. You will have the opportunity to evaluate a meta-analysis in the homework exercise.
- Did the overview explicitly address a sensible clinical question?
- Was the search for relevant studies detailed and exhaustive? Were the inclusion/exclusion criteria for studies developed and applied appropriately?
- Were the studies of high methodologic quality?
- Were the results consistent across studies?
- What are the results and how precise were they?
- How can the results be applied to patient care?