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Book Review: Stocking Filler

Systematic Reviews, Edited by Iain Chalmers and Doug Altman. 1995. BMJ Publishing Group. 117pp. £14.95.

ISBN 0-7279-09054-5.

This book won't tell you everything about systematic reviews, but it will really get you up to speed. The eight chapters in the book are based on papers presented at a joint BMJ/UK Cochrane Centre meeting held in 1993. Perhaps because of this the chapters often come over very fresh and individualistic.

Some are fun. Paul Knipschild gives some very personal examples of systematic reviews and the fun and games that ensue. Hans Eysenck challenges the basis of meta-analysis, and points to many of the problems that can occur.

Others are a bit more dry (perhaps the nature of the beast) because good and reliable systematic reviews have to be based on good and reliable methods - so quality control in its widest meaning can tend to dominate the excitement of mining pearls of wisdom. Heterogeneity, as one example, is not the most thrilling of subjects.

This book is more than a "new readers start here" primer. It is a useful reminder for those conducting systematic reviews of the basic principles and ideas from whence it all sprang. A really useful book - needed on the bookshelf.

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