In an ideal world, you’d take all of the evidence you gathered, run it through some numerical algorithms and come out with a clear answer to your research question.
In the real world, it’s not that simple. Meta-analysis can be a powerful tool for combining and summarizing the results of your studies. But, it can only work if you have enough of the right kind of data.
You might need to skip the meta-analysis step if:
– You found only a few studies
– The study populations, interventions, and/or comparators were very different
– The study designs were very different
– The studies didn’t look at the same outcomes
– The studies measured the same outcome, but used different instruments or scales
– The studies failed to report key values needed for calculations
If you’ve gathered enough studies and those studies are similar enough, congratulations! You can conduct a meta-analysis.