What is a meta-analysis?

Meta-analysis is performed to combine data from multiple studies to arrive at a meaningful conclusion on a topic. Meta-analysis is done to identify a common effect across studies or to understand the reason for variation across the studies.

Why perform a meta-analysis?

Results vary across studies owing to design and analytical differences. Hence, the decisions on the validity of a hypothesis cannot be based on a single study. This problem was traditionally addressed through narrative reviews. However, narrative reviews could be subjective and conclusions could be different based on the approach of the reviewers. To overcome this issue, meta-analysis is employed to combine the data from any number of studies to arrive at an objective conclusion.

Meta-analysis in basic, clinical and applied research

Basic researchers employ meta-analysis to derive conclusions about natural phenomenon, psychological/sociological concepts, economics, finance and marketing, sex differences, genetics and so on. Clinicians employ meta-analysis to understand effectiveness, side-effects, shortcomings and related information on a new or existing intervention, diagnostic tool or a clinical procedure. Pharmaceuticals use meta-analysis to gain approval for novel drugs by satisfying regulatory requirements.


Master’s and PhD Thesis

Meta-analysis is being included as part of PhD thesis, especially in clinical and psychological studies to strengthen or support the thesis results. Many of the universities are employing systematic review and meta-analysis as a research tool for master’s dissertation, especially when the student has enrolled under a part-time or distance program. Such students can complete master’s degree without affecting their full-time jobs.


Systematic reviews and meta-analysis are highly valued by all the journals. Many of the prestigious journals invite authors to submit meta-analysis to resolve controversial topics. This approach is rapidly replacing the traditional narrative reviews. Meta-analysis is either employed as the sole methodology or to answer a specific objective of the publication. Researchers are also using meta-analysis as part of their literature review or introduction to summarize the existing literature on a topic. This provides a very reliable and quantifiable insight into the literature.

New project planning

Newer studies can be planned employing meta-analysis. Meta-analysis can play a key role in understanding necessary approach to answer equivocal questions on results, interventions, and diagnostics and so on.

Grant applications

Grant applications can be strengthened by employing meta-analysis to prove the need for a new study. By showing the link between existing data and planned research, meta-analysis puts the grant application in perspective. The graphical results in meta-analysis can easily convince the reviewers about the literature. Some funding agencies have also made it mandatory to include meta-analysis in grant proposal applications.


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