How Science Takes Stock: The Story of Meta-Analysis

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Overview

Policymakers, medical practitioners, and the public alike face a bewildering flood of new and often contradictory scientific studies on almost every topic. Does psychotherapy work, and if so what form works best? Does federal spending on education improve student performance? Whatever the issue, the growth of modern science has often done more to stir up controversy than to establish reliable knowledge. To address this problem, scientists in several fields have developed a sophisticated new methodology called meta-analysis. By numerically combining diverse research findings on a single question, meta-analysis can be used to identify their central tendency and reach conclusions far more reliable than those of any single investigation. How Science Takes Stock tells the story of meta-analysis through the eyes of its architects and champions, and chronicles its history, techniques, achievements, and controversies. Noted science author Morton Hunt visits key practitioners and recounts their use of meta-analysis to resolve important scientific puzzles and long-standing debates. With each account, Hunt illustrates the major components of the meta-analytic method, reveals strategies for resolving practical and theoretical problems, and discusses the impact of meta-analysis on the science and policy communities. He demonstrates how the statistical techniques of meta-analysis produce more accurate data than a standard literature review or the old-fashioned process of tallying up the results of each scientific study as if they were votes in an election. Further, Hunt answers skeptics who claim that dissimilarities between studies are often too significant for meta-analysis to be any more than an "apples and oranges" approach.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Medical Association
How Science Takes Stock will interest those who seek understanding of how scientific information is synthesized for use by clinicians and policymakers. The targeted special audience of legislators, administrators, and their staffs would especially benefit from this introduction to data synthesis.
Booknews
Describes the emergence and several applications of a technique that numerically combines diverse research findings on a single question to reveal their central tendency, which some scientists claim provides more reliable conclusions than any single investigation. Hunt talks with the researchers who have developed meta-analysis and are using it in the social sciences, psychotherapy, education, health risks, and the outcome of medical procedures. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Nature
Hunt expands meta-analysis for the general reader...to discover the consistencies in a set of seemingly inconsistent findings and to arrive at conclusions more accurate and credible than those presented in any of the primary studies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871543899
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Pages: 224

Meet the Author

MORTON HUNT writes about the social and behavioral sciences. He attended Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, worked briefly on the staffs of two magazines, and since 1949 has been a freelance writer. He has written eighteen books and some 450 articles. He has won a number of prestigious science-writing awards.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Making Order of Scientific Chaos
Ch. 2 Settling Doubts About Psychotherapy
Ch. 3 Clarifying Murky Issues in Education
Ch. 4 "Who Shall Decide, When Doctors Disagree?"
Ch. 5 Firming Up the Shaky Social Sciences
Ch. 6 Lighting the Way for Makers of Social Policy
Ch. 7 Epilogue: The Future of Meta-Analysis
Appendix
Notes
References
Index
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