Chapter 1 Critical skills for meta-analyses and systematic reviews

An overview of quantitative synthesis tools associated with review processing.

Learning outcomes

  1. Critically review peer-reviewed journal publications.
  2. Engineer syntheses and solutions from published evidence.
  3. Appreciate strengths of different synthesis tools and reporting.
  4. Do a meta-analysis or systematic review.


Scientific synthesis of all academic evidence from data to papers can promote evidence-informed decision making. Every contemporary discipline has some capacity to support and benefit from synthesis tools. Here, we develop a set of heuristics to support innovation and leverage evidence.


A overview of lessons provided in this resource to encourage development and use of synthesis tools relevant to your discipline and challenges.

lesson topic goal key resource
1 Introduction to synthesis in science Examine the scope and extent of synthesis in contemporary science for many disciplines. Understanding the Impacts of Research Synthesis
2 Quantitative synthesis tools Explore conceptual and mental models for synthesis. The power of data synthesis to shape the future of the restoration community and capacity
3 Evidence workflow reporting Develop reporting documentation from a formal synthesis review process. Systematic review and meta-analysis: a primer
4 Meta-analysis in R Develop a template for derived data for analyses, and complete a meta-analysis in R. The metafor Package: A Meta-Analysis Package for R
5 Interpretation of meta-analyses Examine model outputs from meta-analyses and interpret. Identify key components. Meta-evaluation of meta-analysis: ten appraisal questions for biologists
6 Coursework A summary of the steps needed to complete summative assessment including rubrics Appropriate Criteria: Key to Effective Rubrics