Meta-analysis can be a powerful technique for summarizing evidence. Each meta-analysis is, in and of itself, a scientific investigation, and its quality is dependent on the methods used in carrying out the “experiment.”2 Different researchers may use different techniques, include different studies, and draw different conclusions. Like any experiment, meta-analyses are subject to bias and error, both of which may affect the validity of the conclusions and their utility for decision makers. As a result, not all meta-analyses are of equal quality. Thus “consumers” of meta-analyses—especially decision makers—must carefully assess the quality of each meta-analysis by considering the research questions asked, the methods used, the analysis and interpretation of the data, the investigation of heterogeneity, and the conclusions drawn.
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