Interpreting results and drawing conclusions

Holger J. Schünemann, Gunn E. Vist, Julian P.T. Higgins, Nancy Santesso, Jonathan J. Deeks, Paul Glasziou, Elie A. Akl, Gordon H. Guyatt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter addresses first one of the key aspects of interpreting findings that is also fundamental in completing a ‘Summary of findings’ table: the certainty of evidence related to each of the outcomes. It then provides a more detailed consideration of issues around applicability and around interpretation of numerical results, and provides suggestions for presenting authors’ conclusions. Methods are presented for computing, presenting and interpreting relative and absolute effects for dichotomous outcome data, including the number needed to treat. For continuous outcome measures, review authors can present summary results for studies using natural units of measurement or as minimal important differences when all studies use the same scale. When studies measure the same construct but with different scales, review authors will need to find a way to interpret the standardized mean difference, or to use an alternative effect measure for the meta-analysis such as the ratio of means.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
EditorsJulian P.T. Higgins, James Thomas, Jacqueline Chandler, Miranda Cumpston, Tianjing Li, Matthew J. Page, Vivian A. Welch
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781119536604
ISBN (Print)9781119536628
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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