HP407      Half Unit
Evidence Review and Synthesis for Decision Making

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Huseyin Naci COW 3.01


This course is available on the MSc in Global Health Policy, MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing, MSc in International Health Policy and MSc in International Health Policy (Health Economics). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is relevant to all students with an interest in the health and social care interventions. 

Course content

Evidence review and synthesis methods (such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses) are increasingly used to evaluate the relative benefits and harms of healthcare interventions. In situations where direct, head-to-head comparisons of interventions do not exist, researchers also increasingly perform indirect comparisons (e.g., network meta-analyses) of two or more interventions to address comparative effectiveness questions. A broad range of decision making bodies across the health care sector (including health technology assessment bodies, drug and medical device licensing agencies, biopharmaceutical industry, and hospitals) need individuals equipped with the methods of reviewing and synthesising the existing body of evidence by performing systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

This course will be focused on the principles of reviewing and synthesising the existing body of literature. The course will have three components. The first will provide the rationale for adopting a systematic approach for evidence review and synthesis. It will equip students with the methods to undertake risk of bias assessments of randomised and non-randomised studies. The second component will focus on the quantitative synthesis of multiple studies in meta-analysis. The third component will discuss the opportunities and challenges of using evidence for decision-making. 

The intended learning outcomes of this course will be the following:

  • Describe the rationale for adopting a systematic approach to literature review
  • Define the principal threats to validity both in individual studies and collections of studies
  • Critically evaluate the quality of randomised and non-randomised studies in oral and written form
  • Assess heterogeneity in a collection of studies
  • Design and perform a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating a health care intervention in a group setting
  • Describe the opportunities and challenges of using systematic review and meta-analysis findings for decision making


This course will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum 25 hours during Michaelmas Term. Students will have access to lecture materials delivered as short online videos. Students will also work in small groups to complete weekly self-directed learning activities and meet with seminar leads for weekly feedback on their progress. An online computer workshop will be held to introduce students to systematic review and meta analysis software.

There will be a departmental reading week in week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

  • Systematic review and meta-analysis protocol (submitted individually) - feedback provided by course instructor

Indicative reading

Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Inter ventions (version 5.1.0, updated March 2011).

Institute of Medicine. Finding what works in health care: standards for systematic reviews. 23 March 2011.

Sutton AJ et al. Methods for Meta-analysis in Medical Research. Wiley, Chichester, UK, 2000.

Cook DJ. Systematic reviews: synthesis of best evidence for clinical decisions. Annals of internal medicine 1997;126(5):376–80.

Higgins, Julian PT, et al. The Cochrane Collaboration’s tool for assessing risk of bias in randomised trials. Bmj 343 (2011): d5928.



Project (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Systematic review and meta-analysis report resembling an original article submission to a peer-reviewed journal (100%). Students will develop their meta-analysis project in a group and individually write up as their summative assessment. 


Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 28.5
Merit 59.9
Pass 11.7
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Health Policy

Total students 2019/20: 50

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills