Table 1

Terminology Box

Systematic review

"A review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from relevant primary studies. Statistical techniques (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to summarise the results of the included studies" [4].


The use of statistical techniques to integrate the results of primary studies (usually randomised controlled trials) in order to obtain a more precise estimate of clinical effect. Sometimes misused as a synonym for systematic reviews, where the review includes a meta-analysis[4]. A meta-analysis may be published without a systematic review or health technology assessment, most frequently when two or more trialists investigating the same intervention combine their data.

Health Technology Assessment (HTA)

A process of evidence review and synthesis to support policy makers. HTAs are sometimes distinguished from systematic reviews, by the following characteristics: (1) their questions, methods and the evidence they consider are driven by the interests of policy-makers rather than those of clinicians or researchers; (2) they are inter-disciplinary efforts (most include cost-effectiveness analyses, unlike systematic reviews which are mainly confined to analyses of clinical effectiveness); (3) their results tend to be disseminated outside of the clinical and research communities[5,6]. Some, but not all HTAs, incorporate systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses.

Hind and Booth BMC Medical Research Methodology 2007 7:49   doi:10.1186/1471-2288-7-49

Open Data