Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 711 - Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis

15 Points

Semester 2*


*Offered in alternative years 


The principles and critical appraisal of interventional systematic reviews and meta-analysis and their role in evidence-based practice. Topics include: protocol development, question formulation, identification of evidence, selection of studies for inclusion, appraisal and quality of included studies, extraction and recording of data, synthesis (meta-analysis) and interpretation of results and application.


Prerequisite: POPLHLTH 708 or 709 or equivalent experience/knowledge of clinical epidemiology.


Programme and course advice

This course is one of a number of courses offered in the School of Population Health that have an evidence based focus. It can be used as partial credit for a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health (Effective Practice), or a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters in Public Health. It is also an optional course for a number of other Faculty of Medical and Health Science programmes. 

Course aims

Content outline

The following represent the topics that are covered throughout the course:

Day 1

  • Introduction to systematic reviews
  • Critical appraisal of systematic reviews (using GATE)
  • Rationale and structure of protocols – inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Role of the Cochrane Collaboration
  • Introduction to Cochrane software

Day 2

  • Advanced searching techniques
  • Selection of studies for a systematic review
  • Collection and recording of data
  • Tables of comparisons
  • Appraisal of included studies for quality

Day 3

  • Introduction to meta-analysis - types of data
  • Statistical concepts in meta-analysis
  • Interpretation of results - strength of the evidence

Day 4

  • Systematic reviews of health promotion and public health interventions
  • Systematic reviews of individual patient data
  • Systematic reviews of diagnostic tests
  • Systematic reviews and network meta-analysis
  • Using systematic reviews in practice

Each topic will be introduced and developed using a variety of teaching and learning techniques: lectures, discussion, group activities and feedback, presentation of projects. Practical exercises will also be undertaken in the computer laboratory so that students become familiar with systematic review software.


Goals of the course

To provide students with an understanding of the principles and methodology of systematic reviews and meta-analysis.


Learning outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, each student will be able to:

  1. Understand the format, processes and application of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomised and observation studies and individual patient data.
  2. Be able to critically appraise systematic reviews and meta-analyses according to quality criteria.
  3. Understand the methodology and statistical concepts associated with systematic reviews and meta-analysis
  4. Be able to interpret the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis
  5. Have the knowledge and practical skills to undertake a simple systematic review

Learning and teaching

The course is offered at Tāmaki Campus in the School of Population Health. The course is delivered over 4 full days (6 to 8 hours each) approximately 3 to 4 weeks apart (max 32 hours).

Learning resources

The GATE tools are available online for students to download and use.


Assessment of the course is based on 3 assignments. There is no examination. The relative weights of the assignments are:

  • Assignment 1 (25%) requires students to evaluate and appraise a systematic review according to a GATE checklist (learning outcome 2).
  • Assignment 2 (25%) requires students to extract data for a systematic review designed to answer a PICOT question. Students are required to design their own data extraction form and then utilise this form to extract data from two assigned RCT’s: (learning outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4).
  • Assignment 3 (50%) requires students to demonstrate all that they have learnt during the course. They will develop their own protocol for an interventional systematic review on a topic of their own choosing. This protocol could be developed into a full systematic review after the course, so it will have a practical benefit for students (learning outcome 5).

Course Coordinator

Course Administrator

Email: pgpophealth@auckland.ac.nz

Phone: +64 (0) 9 9232760