I am conducting a meta-analysis in psychotherapy research and want to use meta-regression to identify moderators.

The regression outcome is a correlation between a psychotherapy process variable + treatment outcome. I have 3 predictors (potential moderators) with different scales: - Study Quality (continuous) - Type of Treatment (categorial, 3 levels) - Scoring Type in primary study (binary)

I would therefore dummy code Type of Treatment (two dummy variables) and Scoring Type (one dummy variable).

And now I am a bit confused about several questions:

  1. Does it (statistically) make sense to conduct a "hierarchical meta-regression" testing each predictor after one another and only including it in the next step if it was relevant?
  2. Should I center study quality around its mean for interpretation purposes of the categorial predictors?
  3. Theoretically, interaction effects would be possible. They are, however, rarely included in meta-regression. Would you still think it is a good idea do so? (Even a three-way-interaction?). Plus: do I need more power to estimate the additional interaction effects with adequate stability? (I have only 22 "cases", so 3 predictors are already critical)

Thank you very much for your input, it will be greatly appreciated!


1 Answer 1


I think a hierarchical approach would only make sense if you had a theoretical reason for establishing the order. I would suggest either doing each separately or fitting a full model with all three (which amounts to four as one is categorical with three levels).

Centreing quality will only affect your intercept in a model without interaction and since in a meta-regression the intercept is seldom interesting I would not bother although it would do no harm either.

Unless you have pressing reasons to look for interaction (like a journal referee's request) I would be a bit reluctant with only 22 primary studies. If you are tempted by a three-way interaction I would lie down in a dark room until the temptation has gone away, they are seldom easy to interpret and even less often correspond to anything scientifically interesting.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I would lie down in a dark room until the temptation has gone away -- I wish I could upvote more than once. $\endgroup$
    – Wolfgang
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 14:20

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