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A (non-statistician) colleague has been encountering meta-analyses in papers he reviews for medical journals and is looking for a good introductory level treatment so he can educate himself. Any recommendations? Favorites? Books, monographs, nontechnical survey articles would all be fine.

(Yes, he's familiar with the Wikipedia entry and other stuff readily accessible by a Google search, such as Jerry Dallal's nice little article.)

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Thank you @shane for creating the meta-analysis tag: I wanted to but couldn't. –  whuber Aug 20 '10 at 20:38
Thank you @propofol and @Jeromy Anglim for your excellent contributions: after skimming DeCoster and looking over the Amazon reviews of the books, I have passed them all along to my colleague. It is a real shame one cannot checkmark multiple answers; in this case I literally flipped a coin: tails, it went to propofol. –  whuber Aug 24 '10 at 22:29
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4 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I have two suggestions:

  1. Systematic Reviews in Health Care: Meta-Analysis in Context (Amazon link)
  2. Introduction to Meta-Analysis (Statistics in Practice) (Amazon link)

Both books are very good, including introductory information as well as detailed information about how to actually perform meta-analyses.

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I liked Systematic Reviews in Health Care, though I found it - as I often do with books with a clinical focus, that it was both needlessly critical of observational studies, and a bit blind to the weaknesses of poorly run clinical trials. It was helpful, but it requires some adaptation to be useful outside the RCT world. –  Fomite Oct 16 '11 at 9:02
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I'll add an independent recommendation for Jeromy's blog post, and second the suggestions of James DeCoster's notes and the Borenstein textbook (propofols' no. 2).

At risk of indulging in self-promotion, I recently published a methods paper entitled Getting Started with Meta-analysis. It's aimed at ecologists and evolutionary biologists, so the examples are taken from these fields, but I hope it will be useful for those working in other areas.

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(+1) Nice review, thanks for sharing. –  chl Oct 3 '10 at 10:20
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I wrote a post a while back on getting started with meta analysis with: (a) tips on getting started, (b) links to online introductory texts, and (c) links to free software for meta analysis.

Specifically, you might want to read James DeCoster's notes.

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Fredric M. Wolf's little green Sage book is worth the $18 or so. "Pleasantly mathematical" but not too technical, not too dogmatic either (it's a fiercely contested field, you probably know), good for a person with what I'd call intermediate-level stats/research experience.

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