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Synthesis Without Meta-Analysis

Another BMJ, another reporting guideline.[1] This one is really quite important because it deals with a somewhat nebulous area: that of synthesis without meta-analysis. The guideline seeks to make the synthesis more transparent, in an area that is inevitably subjective. While there is an inevitable overlap between a guideline for reporting and a guideline for the conduct of a study, the two are not equivalent and should not be treated as such. Readers are directed to chapter 12 of the Cochrane handbook for advice on the conduct of a synthesis without meta-analysis.[2]

The authors writing in the BMJ, eschew the term ‘narrative synthesis’. I agree with them, all research must synthesise a story in narrative form and the term is used to cover up all sorts of sloppy practice.

Richard Lilford, ARC WM Director


  1. Campbell A, et al. Synthesis without meta-analysis (SWiM) in systematic reviews: reporting guideline. BMJ. 2020; 368: L6890.
  2. McKenzie JE & Brennan SE. Chapter 12: Synthesizing and presenting findings using other methods. In: Higgins J, Thomas J (eds). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. 2019.
Fri 22 May 2020, 14:00 | Tags: Guidelines, Richard Lilford