AHRQ series on complex intervention systematic reviews-paper 4: selecting analytic approaches
BACKGROUND: Systematic reviews of complex interventions can vary widely in purpose, data availability and heterogeneity, and stakeholder expectations.
RATIONALE: This article addresses the uncertainty that systematic reviewers face in selecting methods for reviews of complex interventions. Specifically, it lays out parameters for systematic reviewers to consider when selecting analytic approaches that best answer the questions at hand and suggests analytic techniques that may be appropriate in different circumstances.
DISCUSSION: Systematic reviews of complex interventions comprising multiple questions may use multiple analytic approaches. Parameters to consider when choosing analytic methods for complex interventions include nature and timing of the decision (clinical practice guideline, policy, or other); purpose of the review; extent of existing evidence; logistic factors such as the timeline, process, and resources for deciding the scope of the review; and value of information to be obtained from choosing specific systematic review methods. Reviewers may elect to revise their analytic approach based on new or changing considerations during the course of the review but should guard against bias through transparency of reporting.