Over the past few decades, there have been a remarkable number of studies on medical and health. A well-conducted systematic review and meta-analysis (SR/MA) is regarded as a workable strategy for keeping clinicians up to date with the most recent evidence-based medicine in the field of tropical medicine and health. Understanding the SR/MA processes is crucial for carrying them out. It is difficult to accomplish since there are potential barriers for the researcher. The most commonly used guideline for conducting an SR/MA is PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses). This blog aimed to address those issues by offering a step-by-step guide on how to properly conduct an SR/MA, primarily for novice and junior researchers in the medical and other health care fields. All the steps here reflect our experience and expertise in conjunction with the already well-known and accepted international guidelines.
Research question and objectives
Before starting the review process, the issues that need to be addressed should be outlined in the form of concise, precise, and organised questions. Modifications to the protocol should only be permitted once the review questions have been established if it becomes clear that there are better ways to define the populations, interventions, outcomes, or study designs.
Literature search as per inclusion and exclusion criteria
We suggest conducting a preliminary search to find pertinent papers, validate the suggested theory, avoid repeating already answered questions, and guarantee that there are enough articles to conduct the analysis. Themes should also be in line with the review techniques that have been implemented, represent current science, take into account global needs and values, and centre on pertinent and significant health-care challenges. Based on the PICO technique, study design, and date, eligibility requirements are established. Unrelated, duplicate, unavailable complete texts, or publications with only abstracts are the most common exclusion factors. To prevent bias on the part of the researcher, these exclusions should be made clear in advance. Articles containing the target patients, interventions that have been researched, or a comparison of two interventions that have been researched would be the inclusion criteria. In a summary, they would be papers that provide information in response to our research question. The most crucial aspect, however, is that there should be sufficient and unambiguous information, whether positive or negative, to answer the question.
To get the most relevant results, PubMed first uses a common search method that is later adjusted to fit the needs of each individual database. The basic search strategy is built based on the research question formulation (i.e., PICO or PICOS). With the assistance of a subject matter expert in the review topic area or an information specialist, search methods are created to include free-text terms (such as those in the title and abstract) and any applicable subject indexing (such as MeSH) anticipated to return acceptable studies.
Data extraction and quality assessment
This step entails data gathering from full-text inclusions in an excel sheet for structured extraction that has already been pilot-tested for extraction using a few random studies. Because it allows for the most confounding variables to be used in the study by pooling them later, we advise obtaining both adjusted and non-adjusted data. The data extraction should be independently performed by 2 authors to maintain the accuracy of the data.
Summarizing the evidence
Data synthesis includes tabulating study characteristics, quality, and effects in addition to using statistical techniques to compare studies and combine their impacts (meta-analysis). Exploration of heterogeneity and its sources should be planned in advance. If an overall meta-analysis cannot be done, subgroup meta-analysis may be feasible
Interpreting the findings
The issues highlighted in each of the four steps above should be met. The risk of publication bias and related biases should be explored. If the general summary cannot be believed, heterogeneity should be investigated, and if so, the results from high-quality research should be used to draw conclusions. Any recommendations should be graded by reference to the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence.
Our writers at R.K. Medical Content Writing Services have a lot of experience in conducting the SR/MA.