How Does Meta-Analysis
Represent Our Knowledge
Daniel J. Canary and Michelle J. Mattrey
Originating in clinical psychology (Thomas, 1998), the use of meta-analysis has flourished in the social sciences (Wanous, Sullivan, & Malinak, 1989). As this volume documents, meta-analysis naturally has flourished in the field of interpersonal communication. Meta-analysis has influenced the way we think about interpersonal communication, the ways we go about studying it, and the credence we give to research findings.
As an analytical strategy, meta-analysis provides a wide-angle view of empirical findings. Wolf (1986) suggested that “If we view science as the accumulation and refinement of information and knowledge … it then becomes critical to establish guidelines for reliable and valid reviews, integrations, and syntheses of studies examining similar research questions” (p. 10). He and others (Glass, 1976, 1977) contended that meta-analysis offers a powerful and systematic means of combining the results of many studies to derive reliable answers to research question. As Grob and Allen (1996) indicated, meta-analyses portray pictures in quantitative terms instead of the more traditional narrative manner. As this volume illustrates, meta-analyses provide statistical summaries and the numbers associated with those summaries are