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Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis –How Are They Different From Each Other?

“A systematic review may have a statistical combination of studies (a meta-analysis) but does not have to…”

As a student, I’m sure that there have been many incidents where these two terms have often confused you;

systematic review and meta-analysis


What do they mean and how are they different from each other?
What are its advantaged in the world of research?

Let’s find out today!

First, let’s start with this: What is a meta-analysis?

According to Glass (1976)
“Meta-analysis is intended to provide the statistical analysis of a large collection of analysis results from individual studies for the purpose of integrating the findings.”

So, whether your research is related to the field of education or science, meta-analysis is advantageous to all. The formulas used in the Meta analysis is an extensions of the formulas used in primary studies.

Generally, in primary studies we typically measure the mean, standard deviation, variance or regressions. Meta-analysis is not only useful for the synthesis of researches, but it also tells us when a research should be performed, what model should be used and what sensitivity analyses should be undertaken.

Now let us see what is a systematic review?

According to Petriu, Rouquette and Hau in Model Driven

Engineering Languages and Systems:

A systematic review is a means for evaluating and interpreting all the available research that is relevant to a particular research question, topic area or a phenomenon of interest. A systematic review involves several stages and activities, some of which involves planning the review, conducting the review and reporting the review.”

In other words, the systematic review tries to find high quality evidence that is based on the research question of the study. The systematic review method for summarizing data has proved to be quite precise and accurate and has replaced the traditional literature reviews in many ways. They can be used for the fields of psychology, nursing, public health, educational research, and sociology and business management.

How are these two different from each other?

Although the two terms systematic review and meta-analysis have been used interchangeably many times, they are not the same. One way to describe the systematic review is to say that a key element of most systematic reviews is the statistical synthesis of the data, or the Meta analysis.

One major difference between the two is that systematic review are thorough and comprehensive way of interrogating the data while the meta analysis is a statistical approach that helps you combine the data that has been retrieved from the systematic review.

In a nutshell, these two are often used together in studies but that does not mean that they are the same. After reading the article, I’m sure that now you know the basic difference between these two terms and their functions in the research world.


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