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How to perform a meta-analysis with R: a practical tutorial
  1. Sara Balduzzi,
  2. Gerta Rücker,
  3. Guido Schwarzer
  1. Institute of Medical Biometry and Statistics, Faculty of Medicine and Medical Center – University of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sara Balduzzi, Institute of Medical Biometry and Statistics, Faculty of Medicine and Medical Center - University of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau 79085, Germany; balduzzi{at}imbi.uni-freiburg.de

Abstract

Objective Meta-analysis is of fundamental importance to obtain an unbiased assessment of the available evidence. In general, the use of meta-analysis has been increasing over the last three decades with mental health as a major research topic. It is then essential to well understand its methodology and interpret its results. In this publication, we describe how to perform a meta-analysis with the freely available statistical software environment R, using a working example taken from the field of mental health.

Methods R package meta is used to conduct standard meta-analysis. Sensitivity analyses for missing binary outcome data and potential selection bias are conducted with R package metasens. All essential R commands are provided and clearly described to conduct and report analyses.

Results The working example considers a binary outcome: we show how to conduct a fixed effect and random effects meta-analysis and subgroup analysis, produce a forest and funnel plot and to test and adjust for funnel plot asymmetry. All these steps work similar for other outcome types.

Conclusions R represents a powerful and flexible tool to conduct meta-analyses. This publication gives a brief glimpse into the topic and provides directions to more advanced meta-analysis methods available in R.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors SB drafted the manuscript and performed analyses; GR and GS critically revised the manuscript and reviewed the analyses.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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