Synthesizing and presenting findings using other methods

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A range of statistical synthesis methods are available, and these may be divided into three categories based on their preferability. Preferable methods are the meta-analysis methods. This chapter focuses on methods that might be considered when a meta-analysis of effect estimates is not possible due to incompletely reported data in the primary studies. These methods divide into those that are ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’. The ‘acceptable’ methods differ in the data they require, the hypotheses they address, limitations around their use, and the conclusions and recommendations that can be drawn. The ‘unacceptable’ methods in common use are described, along with the reasons for why they are problematic. Visual display and presentation of data is especially important for transparent reporting in reviews without meta-analysis, and should be considered irrespective of whether synthesis is undertaken. Tables and plots structure information to show patterns in the data and convey detailed information more efficiently than text.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
EditorsJulian P.T. Higgins, James Thomas, Jacqueline Chandler, Miranda Cumpston, Tianjing Li, Matthew J. Page, Vivian A. Welch
Place of PublicationChichester UK
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781119536604
ISBN (Print)9781119536628
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2019


  • Acceptable synthesis methods
  • Effect estimates
  • Forest plots
  • Meta-analysis methods
  • Review findings
  • Statistical synthesis methods
  • Tables
  • Unacceptable synthesis methods
  • Visual display methods

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