Meta-regression history and current practice

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Description: At the beginning of the development of meta-analysis, understanding the role of moderators was given the highest priority, with meta-regression provided as a method for achieving this goal. Yet in current practice, meta-regression is not as commonly used as anticipated. In two companion papers, we seek to understand the disconnects between the methodological development of meta-regression and how it is currently applied in the social and behavioral sciences. In the first paper, we review the history of meta-regression methods over the past 40 years, including methodological developments in the fields of education, psychology, and medicine. We conclude the paper with a discussion of five consensus points, as well as open questions and areas of research for the future. In the second paper, we review which and how meta-regression methods are applied in recent research syntheses, focusing on studies published in 2016 across four leading research synthesis journals. We find that the previously identified best practices are rarely carried out in application. In light of the identified discrepancies, we consider how to move forward, first by identifying areas where further methods development is needed, and second by discussing how to more effectively disseminate points of methodological consensus.

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