A Meta-analysis is a specific statistical strategy used by researchers to assemble the results of a number of studies into a single estimate. Thus, a Meta-analysis aggregates findings to determine ‘truths.’ A meta-analysis may be carried out to establish if an intervention has a true effect on a variable. A meta-analysis combines data from different primary studies on a particular research question to come up with a single estimate. The main purpose of Meta-analysis is to provide a logical framework to a research question or topic by systematically comparing measures from comparable studies. The rationale for conducting a meta-analysis is that it condenses a large volume of data by summarizing data from various resources and facilitates the planning of research as well as to frame guidelines. The author makes efficient use of existing data, helps check for consistency of relationships, ensures generalizability, quantifies the data and helps explain data inconsistency. The audience benefits from improved precision in estimating the risk by using explicit methods (Coren & Fisher, 2006).
Meta-synthesis involves the technique of bringing together research findings, breaking them down, examining them, establishing important features and, by some means, merging the phenomena into a new whole. Thus, the purpose of conducting a meta-synthesis is to form a new interpretation by bringing together Qualitative data. Meta-synthesis can also lead to the development of new theories. The difference between a meta-analysis and a meta-synthesis is that a meta-analysis is used in the testing of a hypothesis while a meta-synthesis is used in the development of a new theory. Audiences of meta-synthesis are mainly those that require getting snapshots of researcher’s interpretation of a phenomenon. By combining various interpretations, the evidence required in an interpretation becomes strong. Common differences and themes can also be identified and new interpretation built on the topic of interest (Walsh & Downe, 2005).
Systematic research reviews
A systematic research review is a summary of the literature. The individual conducting a systematic research review uses precise and reproducible approach to systematically explore, critically evaluate, and synthesize on a particular issue. The audiences of systematic research reviews are interested in the synthesis of the results of related multiple primary studies. The researcher uses strategies to that minimize bias and random errors. Often, Systematic research reviews include a meta-analysis in the form of statistical synthesis depending on whether the studies are closely related to producing meaningful results that may arise from their integration (Tranfield et al., 2003).What sets aside systematic research reviews from meta-analysis and meta-synthesis is the practice of adhering to a pre-specified, strict scientific design based on explicit and reproducible methods. As a result, when carried out appropriately, they give reliable estimates regarding the effects of interventions making the conclusions more defensible. Researchers can also use systematic reviews to determine where knowledge is lacking (Moher et al., 2015).
Clinical practice guidelines
Clinical practice guidelines provide research-based information. Clinical guidelines are often flexible to suit particular circumstances and meet client needs. Clinical guidelines do not replace protocols and standards. Instead, they provide research-based options for decisions. The purpose of Clinical practice guidelines is to form part of important tools necessary for clinical decisions. They are based on clinical conditions or procedures, are client-focused and detailed, provide practices or courses of action for meeting standards of care (Grimshaw et al., 1995).
Care protocols serve as contracts to limit a party’s practice in care. The deviation from protocols may attract liability as determined by the agreement. The purpose of care protocol is to protect care practices. While Clinical practice guidelines provide research-based options for decisions, care protocols are put in place to limit medical practices.
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