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Resource Methods Toolkit CO:RE at TUNI Published: 12 May 2022

Meta-analysis

Meta-analysis is a type of study which cohesively sums up a number of articles published on a certain topic. Quite frequently, empirical studies utilising statistics about one topic lead to contradictory results, and the question thus arises about whether this is because of researcher bias or methodological error Recalculation of the empirical data from many papers can give an answer to this question and this is known as one type of meta-analysis.

The other type of meta-analysis is a systematic literature review, which usually has a theoretical aim of generalising many scientific papers on a topic of interest. Literature reviews map how the evidence found from certain papers supports some concepts (Kucirkova, 2017) or how some concepts have developed (Spante et al., 2018). In a systematic literature review, the papers are categorized in several ways and those categories are handled as new variables that can be descriptively analysed. The empirical data of each individual paper is not re-analysed. 

Pros

  • A meta-analysis is the type of study that can be done effectively in co-operation with several researchers, as there are many stages where double-checking and categorising would yield the best results.

  • Teamwork helps to decrease the probability of researcher bias, meaning that a single researcher may be inclined (unconsciously or consciously) to include only the papers that would support his or her views. After all the potentially relevant papers have been collected, it would be useful to perform the selection of the papers that can be included in the meta-analysis in a parallel categorisation process conducted by several researchers.

Cons

  • It is not so easy to find the relevant papers for meta-analysis. This problem arises because, especially in the social sciences, researchers are inconsistent in naming the phenomena that they study or even the methods they use. For example, the term digital literacy also appears as digital literacies and digital competence (Spante et al., 2018). Similarly, design-based research methods, for example, has several names and is also referred to as a living lab or R & D project (Tuvi & Okkonen, 2021). Especially in the field of digital products and digital environments studies, the technology develops rapidly and brings about new aspects of previously studied phenomena. Hence, the names of the phenomena also change. In order to include all named versions of the phenomenon that is meta-analysed, it is useful to make a list of key terms that should be searched and discussed with several experts in the field. 

  • It requires finding all relevant papers as well as the dedication of many work hours for the reading of papers which sometimes may prove not to be important for the research question one has in mind.





  1. Kucirkova, N. (2017). An integrative framework for studying, designing and conceptualising interactivity in children’s digital books. British Educational Research Journal, 43(6), 1168–1185. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3317

  2. Spante, M., Hashemi, S. S., Lundin, M., & Algers, A. (2018). Digital competence and digital literacy in higher education research: Systematic review of concept use. In Cogent Education (Vol. 5, Issue 1, pp. 1–21). Taylor and Francis Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2018.1519143

  3. Tuvi, I., & Okkonen, J. (2021). Data in Educational Living Labs. Information Technology and Systems. ICITS 2021., 138–145. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-68418-1_15

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Authors

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Team member, CO:RE at TUNI

Iiris Tuvi

Iiris Tuvi, PhD, is a post-doctoral Research Fellow a the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences of Tampere University. She has long experience in experimental psychology and methods involving psychometrics and data analysis. Currently working on methods used to research children in digital environment. Iiris is a member of Work Package 6 team.

Tampere University
Tampere University
CO:RE at TUNI
Methods

The team at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of TUNI identifies, develops and provides access to resources on qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods together with evaluating their validity in research practice.

These resources are collated in the CO:RE methods toolkit that cross-reference resources from the evidence base, the compass for research ethics, and the theory toolkit, to give users tools to apply to their individual research contexts.

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