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Open Access Technical Note

Teaching meta-analysis using MetaLight

James Thomas1*, Sergio Graziosi1, Steve Higgins2, Robert Coe2, Carole Torgerson2 and Mark Newman1

Author Affiliations

1 EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK

2 School of Education, University of Durham, Durham, UK

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:571  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-571

Published: 18 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of primary studies. It is often used in systematic reviews and is increasingly a method and topic that appears in student dissertations. MetaLight is a freely available software application that runs simple meta-analyses and contains specific functionality to facilitate the teaching and learning of meta-analysis. While there are many courses and resources for meta-analysis available and numerous software applications to run meta-analyses, there are few pieces of software which are aimed specifically at helping those teaching and learning meta-analysis. Valuable teaching time can be spent learning the mechanics of a new software application, rather than on the principles and practices of meta-analysis.

Findings

We discuss ways in which the MetaLight tool can be used to present some of the main issues involved in undertaking and interpreting a meta-analysis.

Conclusions

While there are many software tools available for conducting meta-analysis, in the context of a teaching programme such software can require expenditure both in terms of money and in terms of the time it takes to learn how to use it. MetaLight was developed specifically as a tool to facilitate the teaching and learning of meta-analysis and we have presented here some of the ways it might be used in a training situation.

Keywords:
Meta-analysis; Research synthesis; Systematic review; Teaching; Teaching resource; Software