Originally developed by social scientists, meta-analysis is now one of the central methods of evidence-based medicine. This paper offers an account of the emergence of meta-analysis in social science in the 1970s, its adoption in medicine in the 80s, and the birth of the closely related format of systematic reviews in the early 1990s. The paper investigates the extent to which medical meta-analysis relied on previous work by social scientists, as well as the manner in which systematic reviews grew out of these developments. Throughout the exposition, attention is paid to the formalization of the procedures involved in synthesizing research.

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