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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 October 2020

Frank Boers
University of Western Ontario
Lara Bryfonski
Georgetown University
Farahnaz Faez*
University of Western Ontario
Todd McKay
St. George’s University
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Farahnaz Faez, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6G 1G7, Canada. E-mail:


Meta-analytic reviews collect available empirical studies on a specified domain and calculate the average effect of a factor. Educators as well as researchers exploring a new domain of inquiry may rely on the conclusions from meta-analytic reviews rather than reading multiple primary studies. This article calls for caution in this regard because the outcome of a meta-analysis is determined by how effect sizes are calculated, how factors are defined, and how studies are selected for inclusion. Three recently published meta-analyses are reexamined to illustrate these issues. The first illustrates the risk of conflating effect sizes from studies with different design features; the second illustrates problems with delineating the variable of interest, with implications for cause-effect relations; and the third illustrates the challenge of determining the eligibility of candidate studies. Replication attempts yield outcomes that differ from the three original meta-analyses, suggesting also that conclusions drawn from meta-analyses need to be interpreted cautiously.

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