Diffusion of Meta-Analysis, Systematic Review, and Related Research Synthesis Methods: Patterns, Contexts, and Impact Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Sheble, Laura Ann
    • Affiliation: School of Information and Library Science
  • Like collaboration and interdisciplinary scholarship, research synthesis methods are used to integrate science knowledge. Unlike collaboration and interdisciplinary scholarship, research synthesis is a scientific method researchers apply to systematically and explicitly integrate knowledge from primary research studies to estimate the best answer to a specific question based on accumulated research findings. This study investigates the diffusion and impact of research synthesis methods at the macro- and meso-levels. At the macro-level, diffusion from 1972-2011 is described using bibliometric methods. Relatively modest engagement with the methods in the 1970s and 1980s was followed by increased engagement across a greater diversity of fields in the 1990s. Engagement with the methods continued to increase and spread across fields through the first decade of the 2000s. Engagement with research synthesis methods was strongly correlated with engagement with evidence-based practice (ρ=0.893, p < 0.001) and the number of years a field engaged with the methods (ρ = 0.706, p < 0.001), moderately correlated with engagement with past research (ρ = 0.403, p < 0.001); and modestly correlated with Biglan class (ρ = 0.279, p = 0.011). Five fields, Evolutionary Biology, Conservation Biology, Social Work, Women’s Studies, and Information and Library Science were selected for investigation at the meso-level. Content analysis, topic modeling, and qualitative summaries of literature at the intersections of these fields and research synthesis contextualize the diffusion process and reveal differences and similarities across field contexts. Bibliometric evaluation indicates that adoption of research synthesis contributes to changes in collaboration patterns: a greater number of authors contribute to research syntheses than research reviews in fields where collaboration on research reviews is low. This study provides some evidence that use of the methods has refined rather than replaced roles of traditional research reviews in Social Work; and illustrates interactions between innovations and use contexts. Innovations and their contexts are modified through adaptations influenced by historical contexts, values, and goals that intersect with the innovation use context.
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  • Kelly, Diane
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2014

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