Q: How to write a systematic review article including meta-analysis?

Detailed Question -

Hi, new here and thanks for the opportunity. I'm trying to write a medical review article and I'm totally confused about it. I'm new in writing and I'm very worried. I am writing a meta-analysis comparing bone cement volumes in an attempt to find an optimal cement volume for percutaneous vertebroplasty (PVP). Please do respond when you can, will appreciate it a lot. Thanks

1 Answer to this question

Meta-analysis is a type of systematic review in which statistical analysis is carried out to compare previously published studies and derive new interpretations or new findings. These are immensely helpful to understand the global effects of a particular finding rather than depending on the results of a single, isolated study in a particular region.

Meta-analysis is often considered more reliable than primary research as they include all the previously published data on the same research question and discuss the differences in study outcomes and the reasons behind them. A meta-analysis involves detailed scrutiny and analysis of a huge mass of literature. Thus, you need to be organized and follow a clear process for your work to be efficient and effective. 

Here's the process flow usually followed in a typical systematic review/meta-analysis:

Step 1. Develop a research question

Step 2. Define inclusion and exclusion criteria

Step 3. Locate studies 

Step 4. Select studies

Step 5. Assess study quality

Step 6. Extract data

Step 7. Conduct a critical appraisal of the selected studies 

Step 8: Synthesize data

Step 9: Analyze and present results

Step 10. Interpret results

Step 11. Update the review as needed

It is helpful to follow this process and make notes at each stage. This will make it easier for you to write the review article.

When writing a meta-analysis, you should follow the IMRAD structure like regular research articles. One point to be noted, however, is that the Methods section is the most crucial part of a systematic review article. The methodology followed should be explained clearly and logically. The following components should be discussed in detail:

  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Identification of studies
  • Study selection
  • Data extraction
  • Quality assessment
  • Data analysis

The other sections would be similar to a regular article. Please go through this article to understand the basics of how to write a systematic review/meta-analysis: A young researcher's guide to a systematic review.

Related reading: