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Such diverse thinkers as Lao-Tze, Confucius, and U. S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have all pointed out that we need to be able to tell the difference between real and assumed knowledge. The systematic review is a scientific tool that can help with this difficult task. It can help, for example, with appraising, summarising, and communicating the results and implications of otherwise unmanageable quantities of data. This is important because quite often there are so many studies, and their results are often so conflicting, that no policymaker or practitioner could possibly carry out this task themselves. Systematic review methods have been widely used in health care, and are becoming increasingly common in the social sciences (fostered, for example, by the work of the Campbell Collaboration). This book outlines the rationale and methods of systematic reviews, giving worked examples from social science and other fields. It requires no previous knowledge, but takes the reader through the process stage by stage. It draws on examples from such diverse fields as psychology, criminology, education, transport, social welfare, public health, and housing and urban policy, among others. The book includes detailed sections on assessing the quality of both quantitative, and qualitative research; searching for evidence in the social sciences;meta-analytic and other methods of evidence synthesis; publication bias; heterogeneity; and approaches to dissemination.
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Table of Contents

Foreword (William R. Shadish). Acknowledgments. Preface. Chapter 1: Why do we need systematic reviews? Chapter 2: Starting the review: Refining the question and defining the boundaries. Chapter 3: What sorts of studies do I include in the review? Deciding on the review's inclusion / exclusion criteria. Chapter 4: How to find the studies: The literature search. Chapter 5: How to appraise the studies: An introduction to assessing study quality. Chapter 6: Synthesising the evidence. Chapter 7: Exploring heterogeneity and publication bias. Chapter 8: Disseminating the review. Chapter 9: Systematic reviews: Urban myths and fairy tales. Glossary. Appendix 1: The review process (and some questions to ask before starting a review). Appendix 2: MOOSE Guidelines. Appendix 3: Example of flow diagram from a systematic review. Appendix 4: Example data extraction form. Appendix 5: Variations in the quality of systematic reviews. Bibliography. Index.

About the Author

Mark Petticrew is an associate director of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, Co-ordinator of the ESRC Centre for Evidence-Based Public Health Policy, and has written widely on systematic reviews. Helen Roberts is a social scientist, and professor of Child Health at City University, where she leads the Child Health Research and Policy Unit. Until 2001 she was Head of R&D at Barnardos. Her most recent book is What Works for Children (ed) with Di McNeish and Tony Newman.

Reviews

"The book is noteworthy in terms of its comprehensive coverage of issues and inclusive perspective with respect to study inclusion, study quality assessment and findings synthesis. The guide's ecumenical' perspective is certainly a strength inasmuch as different readers will find inspiration and interesting suggestions on how to conduct different types of SR." (Political Studies Review, May 2009)

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