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Purpose – This chapter gives an overview of meta-analytic methods and illustrates the use of these methods for synthesising research findings. The advantages of performing a meta-analysis are described. Pitfalls in meta-analyses are also discussed. The chapter is intended to present the main elements of a meta-analysis and guide readers to literature presenting meta-analytic methods in greater detail.
Methodology – Key references in the meta-analysis literature are quoted and examples of meta-analyses are presented.
Findings – A meta-analysis is a useful tool for summarising knowledge in fields where a large number of studies have been reported. In addition to providing summary estimates of results, a meta-analysis can be applied to identify factors that produce systematic variation in study findings.
Research implications – Methods of meta-analyses keep developing to deal with complex data structures, thus extending the type of research findings that are amenable to meta-analyses.
Practical implications – Performing a meta-analysis saves labour by eliminating the need to read and digest a large number of studies in order to get an overview of the current state-of-knowledge in a field. Moreover, a meta-analysis establishes a system for easily and quickly updating knowledge as new studies become available.