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Meta-analysis is a research process used to systematically synthesise or merge the findings of single, independent studies, using statistical methods to calculate an overall or ‘absolute’ effect.—What is meta-analysis? (Shorten & Shorten, 2013)
Meta-analyses are conducted to assess the strength of evidence present…One aim is to determine whether an effect exists; another aim is to determine whether the effect is positive or negative and, ideally, to obtain a single summary estimate of the effect. The results of a meta-analysis can improve precision of estimates of effect, answer questions not posed by the individual studies, settle controversies arising from apparently conflicting studies, and generate new hypotheses. In particular, the examination of heterogeneity is vital to the development of new hypotheses.—Meta-analysis in medical research (Haidich, 2010)