AHRQ series on complex intervention systematic reviews—paper 4: selecting analytic approaches

Meera Viswanathan, Melissa L. McPheeters, M. Hassan Murad, Mary E. Butler, Emily E.(Beth) Devine, Michele P. Dyson, Jeanne Marie Guise, Leila C. Kahwati, Jeremy N.V. Miles, Sally C. Morton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex interventions
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Qualitative research
  • Research design
  • Review literature as topic
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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