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Systematic Reviews or Meta-Analyses Manuscripts

The development of an intervention typically requires conducting some type of literature review of previous related studies. Such a review informs the development of an intervention and also locates the intervention within a trajectory of knowledge building an incremental scientific advancement. There are many different approaches to conducting a literature review, but following a systematic process is of utmost importance, particularly if the end goal is to publish the results.

One approach is to conduct a systematic review. As White and Schmidt (2005) describe, “systematic reviews retrieve, appraise and summarize all the available evidence on a specific health question” (p. 54). Systematic reviews follow a particular protocol to avoid the researcher’s own biases and to assure that a full and adequate appraisal of the existing literature is provided. The Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) is at the forefront of advancing this approach for health-related reviews and offers models and tutorials (see tectutorials.com/ SRAHRQProcess.html). AHRQ also developed a Systematic Review Data Repository (see ahrq-srdr-prod-347362009.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com/) that serves as a searchable archive of systematic reviews of health-related issues. It may be helpful to review the repository to identify areas for which evaluations exist and the methodologies used.

Although not all journals publish systematic reviews, there is increased interest in these types of manuscripts. A few journals are expressly dedicated to publishing this type of study (see the journal Systematic Reviews at www.systematic reviewsjournal.com/).

Another form of a systematic review is the meta-analysis. A meta-analysis is considered the most rigorous form of a literature review: It uses statistical methodologies to examine the effect sizes of findings from a defined body of research. A meta-analysis equally informs future directions for intervention development and can be used to support a proposed intervention or study. The specific methodologies for conducting systematic and meta-analyses are beyond the scope of this chapter. However, it is important to recognize meta-analyses as a viable systematic approach for summarizing studies related to a behavioral intervention. This approach can be used to produce an important and contributory publication while developing and testing an intervention protocol.

 
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