Where does meta-analysis come from?
The prefix meta-, when added to the name of a subject or a discipline, forms the name of a new subject that analyzes the first one at a more abstract or higher level. It follows that meta-analysis is a field of study that analyzes already existing analyses.
Meta-analysis, in the statistical sense, was coined by the statistician Gene V. Glass. In a 1976 Educational Researcher article, Glass wrote, “The term is a bit grand, but it is precise and apt…Meta-analysis refers to the analysis of analyses.”
The process of meta-analysis itself predates Glass by several decades, and is featured in the work of well-known statisticians.
The term meta-analysis was also in use before Glass brought it its statistical sense. Since the mid-1900s, meta-analysis has been used in the discipline of philosophy to refer to the analysis of the foundational assumptions upon which individual theories or tenets are based.
Examples of meta-analysis
Who uses meta-analysis?
Meta-analysis is often used to determine general information from a systematic review procedure. By aggregating the results of several studies, statisticians are able to use meta-analysis to isolate the common findings.
This procedure can greatly reduce the margin of error created by variations in the studies, and allows researchers to gather more exact information. However, meta-analysis is fundamentally a human-driven process that can be biased or manipulated to serve different agendas. Past meta-analytical reports have been criticized for failing to include all available data or being influenced by the author’s personal interests.
Meta-analysis is often used in medical studies to determine the effects of a treatment on various subjects. Most recently, meta-analysis has been applied to studies involving gene expression in microRNA.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of meta-analysis like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of meta-analysis that will help our users expand their word mastery.