I'm in the midst of revising a manuscript that compares the results of a sequence of experiments. These experiments, most of whose results have already been published elsewhere, have some components that were shared and some that were unique to each experiment. This manuscript focuses on the shared aspects, comparing across the different experiments in order to draw conclusions about precision, reproducibility, and sources of error.

Since we're performing a statistical analysis over the findings of multiple studies, we have described this as a "meta-analysis." The handling editor, however, has requested that we change the title, because the use of that term is now dominated by systematic reviews:

Please consider amending the title to more accurately reflect the nature of the work. We note that 'meta-analysis' typically refers to an analysis following a systematic review and utilising a specific framework.

I'm having a hard time, however, figuring out any other word than "meta-analysis" to describe an analysis over multiple studies.

Is there any good word besides "meta-analysis" to describe a meta-analysis that doesn't incorporate a systematic literature review?

  • I assume you have a partial lit review, at least. If the study is narrow enough, then comparative analysis might be reasonable.
    – Buffy
    Apr 20, 2021 at 20:37
  • There may not be one word to substitute for "meta-analysis" that captures what your paper does. If you edit the question to show us the title the editor wants changed and perhaps the abstract we may be able to suggest a rewording. (Or the question may be closed as too narrow ...) Apr 20, 2021 at 20:46
  • @Buffy The study is indeed very narrow, which is why we have nothing other than the ordinary background review for our citations: we know a priori that there are no other comparable studies whose data could be fused. As such, It think "comparative analysis" is a very good term. Can you turn your comment into an answer so that I can vote it up and accept it?
    – jakebeal
    Apr 20, 2021 at 20:55
  • I read your title, and based on only that I would have said: an opinion.
    – Luuklag
    Apr 21, 2021 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


For a wide study that attempts to distill "truth" out of "evidence", meta-analysis would be the correct term.

But for a narrower study that compares a small number of studies and attempts to improve the evidence for an answer to the underlying question or at least improve the search for better evidence, I think "comparative analysis" would probably be better - especially if an editor is uncomfortable.

But you might also think about qualifying the term depending on your actual goal in the paper.

  • Thanks; this is exactly what I was looking for; my head was just stuck on "meta-analysis" and I couldn't think my way past it. To clarify the context a bit, and why we aren't doing a literature review, the studies involved are very large interlaboratory studies, so small studies aren't relevant and we know there's only the one large-scale collaboration that has been conducting such studies.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 20, 2021 at 21:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .