Who is the course for?

This is an introductory course for anyone who is interested in finding out about how evidence from several studies on the same topic can be usefully combined. This would suit you if, for example, you are familiar with reading quantitative research papers, or have undertaken a literature review to inform the background for a paper or grant. Concepts are explained through presentation of a real example and no mathematical formulae are presented.

The last part of the course consists of four short worked examples for participants to work through in order to reinforce understanding of the key concepts.

Course description

At the level of government, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) commission systematic reviews of research literature and their analysis (meta-analyses) in order to inform important clinical guidelines and public health guidance.

For an individual who is preparing a grant application, or writing the background and discussion sections of a paper, it is important to be aware of existing findings in the literature from meta-analyses or reviews. It is typically required that a proposed study needs to be justified, or that the results from research need to be put into the context of existing evidence. This course aims to equip participants to understand and interpret meta-analyses by presenting an informative example.

This course will cover:

  • The steps of a systematic review
  • The odds ratio and confidence interval
  • Interpretation of the pooled effect (Forest plot)
  • Assessing whether studies are heterogeneous or consistent in their results
  • Common biases in research studies and meta-analyses (publication bias)
  • The need to assess study quality
  • Further types of analysis (subgroups, sensitivity).

Learning objectives

By the end of the session, participants should be able to:

  • Appreciate the benefit from carefully planning a systematic literature review
  • Understand how the results from individual studies are represented graphically
  • Identify and interpret the overall pooled effect and the 95% confidence interval
  • Explain why there may be heterogeneity in the results of the individual studies
  • Be more familiar with types of bias in primary studies and meta-analyses.

About the trainer

Salma Ayis is a senior lecturer in Medical Statistics at King’s College London, with interest in the conduct of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. She has been involved in the several meta-analysis studies, in collaboration with clinicians and other researchers. These were published in peer reviewed journals including the Lancet. Over the last ten years, Salma has advised in a large number of medical research projects and collaborated in a wide range of clinical areas.