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Professional medical societies often sponsor or conduct evidence reviews as the first step in developing a practice guideline. These include, for example, the American College of Physicians, several cardiology groups (the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the American Heart Association), the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Origins of Systematic Review Methods

The term “meta-analysis” was first used by social scientists in the 1970s to describe the process of identifying a representative set of studies of a given topic and summarizing their results quantitatively. In a groundbreaking 1976 assessment of treatment for depression, Glass (1976) first used the term “meta-analysis” to describe what is now referred to as systematic review. Textbooks describing the concept and methods of systematic reviews (Cooper and Rosenthal, 1980; Glass et al., 1981; Hedges and Olkin, 1985; Light and Pillemer, 1984; Rosenthal, 1978; Sutton et al., 2000), and research articles exploring issues such as publication bias followed during that and the subsequent decade.

Subsequently, as quantitative syntheses started to include qualitative summaries and medical scientists adopted the methods, a new terminology emerged. Richard Peto and colleagues used the term “overview” for

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