Meta-analysis, complexity, and heterogeneity: a qualitative interview study of researchers' methodological values and practices.


Lorenc, T; Felix, L; Petticrew, M; Melendez-Torres, GJ; Thomas, J; Thomas, S; O'Mara-Eves, A; Richardson, M; (2016) Meta-analysis, complexity, and heterogeneity: a qualitative interview study of researchers' methodological values and practices. Systematic reviews, 5 (1). p. 192. ISSN 2046-4053 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-016-0366-6

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Abstract

Complex or heterogeneous data pose challenges for systematic review and meta-analysis. In recent years, a number of new methods have been developed to meet these challenges. This qualitative interview study aimed to understand researchers' understanding of complexity and heterogeneity and the factors which may influence the choices researchers make in synthesising complex data. We conducted interviews with a purposive sample of researchers (N = 19) working in systematic review or meta-analysis across a range of disciplines. We analysed data thematically using a framework approach. Participants reported using a broader range of methods and data types in complex reviews than in traditional reviews. A range of techniques are used to explore heterogeneity, but there is some debate about their validity, particularly when applied post hoc. Technical considerations of how to synthesise complex evidence cannot be isolated from questions of the goals and contexts of research. However, decisions about how to analyse data appear to be made in a largely informal way, drawing on tacit expertise, and their relation to these broader questions remains unclear.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 27852314
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/3106959

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