POPLHLTH 711 : Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis

Medical and Health Sciences

2023 Semester Two (1235) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

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.

Course Overview

The principle objective of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the principles and methodology of systematic reviews. Students should also be able to appraise the quality of systematic reviews and implement the findings. 

The course will consist of approximately 26 contact hours (6 days on campus) comprising the following teaching modes:
Practical sessions using skills acquired throughout the course.
Discussion sessions, sometimes based on case study material.
Presentations by guest speakers, experts in their field.
Computer lab sessions to learn how to use pertinent software.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: POPLHLTH 708 or 709 or equivalent experience

Course Contacts

Academic coordinators: Associate Professor Vanessa Jordan & Dr Sarah Fortune
Email: v.jordan@auckland.ac.nz, sarah.fortune@auckland.ac.nz
Course Administrator
Mrs Upendra Wickramarachchi
Group Services Administrator
Email: u.wicks@auckland.ac.nz

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Master of Public Health

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically appraise eligible studies that would be included within a systematic review. (Capability 2.1 and 5.1)
  2. Critically appraise systematic reviews and meta-analyses according to quality criteria. (Capability 2.1 and 5.1)
  3. Interpret the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis. (Capability 2.1 and 5.1)
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the format, methodology and statistical concepts required to complete a systematic review and meta-analyses. (Capability 2.1 and 5.1)
  5. Develop the knowledge and practical skills to undertake a simple systematic review. (Capability 2.1 and 5.1)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignment 1 5% Individual Coursework
Assignments 2 20% Individual Coursework
Assignment 3 25% Individual Coursework
Assignments 4 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Assignment 1
Assignments 2
Assignment 3
Assignments 4
If you are not able to meet the deadline for submission you must notify the course coordinator/lecturer and the course administrator BEFORE the due date/time to avoid the penalties resulting from not having an approved extension.
• Due dates for assignments must be strictly observed.
• Extensions will only be given in very exceptional and unavoidable circumstances, and if approved by the course coordinator/lecturer prior to the assignment due date. Penalties will be imposed for late assessments without extensions (see below).
• No assignments will be accepted after 2 weeks unless by prior arrangement.
Late assignments where an extension has not been given will be penalised as follows:
• Up to 2 weeks (10 working days) late - 5% off the mark for each day late
• More than 14 days late - assignment not graded.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 28-30 hours of lectures and practical sessions, 28-30 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 50 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including practical sessions will not be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events .
The activities for the course are scheduled for six half days of block delivery.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Required reading will be from the Cochrane handbook which is available to freely read on line https://training.cochrane.org/handbook/current

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Students this course did not run in 2021 but students will be encouraged to complete feedback which will help us to  improve the course content and delivery following this semester.

Other Information

Content Outline
The following represent the topics that are covered throughout the course:
Topic One:
Introduction to systematic reviews
Critical appraisal of systematic reviews
Rationale and structure of protocols – inclusion and exclusion criteria
Introduction to software (REVMAN)

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

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

Topic Four: 
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.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.