Using Publish or Perish for meta-analyses

Explains how to use Publish or Perish to conduct effective meta-analytic research

[Guest blogpost by Vas Taras, who also interviewed me on Publish or Perish]

Like most of you, I use Publish or Perish (PoP) as a multi-functional, performance-improving shell for Google Scholar. There is one particular function that I find particularly useful, indispensable really, for researchers who do meta-analytic research.

The persistent challenge for meta-analytic studies is to keep track of the literature searches a researcher must do when conducting a meta-analysis. It is expected that the Methods section of a meta-analytic paper will report all literature search steps and the results of these searches. The truth is, however, it is nearly impossible to keep track of those searches and their results – unless you use PoP.

The problem with Google Scholar is that it does not allow downloading multiple citations with one click. So if I search for, for example, “global virtual teams” and Google Scholar returns 1,000 hits, if I want to import all those papers into my bibliography, I have to download them one by one, which of course, is practically unfeasible.

Integration between PoP and Endnote

The beauty of PoP is that it integrates with EndNote. This is how I do it:

  • I create a list of search terms that I relevant to my literature search. For example, I am working on “roots” tourism, and I need to find all literature on the topic. However, there are multiple names for this phenomenon, so I’ll need to search for “roots tourism”, “diaspora tourism”, “ancestral tourism”, “family and friends tourism”, and so on [see above for one of these searches]. 
  • So I type in the first of these search terms in PoP. PoP returns the list of studies on the tpic.
  • Next, with a couple of clicks, I export these results to EndNotes and save them as a new group.
  • Then I move on to the next search term in PoP, and again export the results to EndNotes.
  • I repeat the steps for each of my search terms, each time saving the results as a separate group of references. This way, I now have a list of how many hits I got in Google Scholar for each of my searchers. I will report these numbers in my paper when describing my literature search.

    This is what the results in EndNotes might look like: Notice how I have the list of references for each search term in a separate group.

  •  Next, I use the “consolidate duplicates” function in EndNote. This allows me to remove papers that used multiple terms. When done, I have a clean list of all studies that mention any of my search terms. I could list multiple search terms in PoP to get the full, consolidated list right away, but I prefer to track the number of hits for each search term first.

I can then proceed with the usual screening of the papers for suitability for my meta-analysis, first based on the publication titles and outlets, and later based on inspection of the full-text papers.

The good thing is that once all my references are in EndNotes, I can now give the list to my graduate student and ask her/him to download full text PDFs and check the studies for the presence of usable data. It would be hard to train a student to do it directly in Google Scholar. Too many mistakes would happen. But when the list is in EndNotes, the student can go through it paper by paper. A much more reliable approach.

In sum

To sum up: PoP gives me the following important advantages over the searches directly in Google Scholar:

  1. PoP allows for saving multiple references at once. Google Scholar would require that I export them to EndNotes one by one, which can take hours if I am dealing with hundreds or thousands of hits as it often happens.
  2. PoP allows me to keep track of the exact number of hits for each search term. It is very useful not only for reporting in the Methods/Literature Search section of the resulting paper, but also for keeping for my own records.
  3. By consolidating duplicates in EndNotes, I can not only get a total list of hits, but also the unique number of hits for each search term, and for the literature search overall.

PoP helps with dozens of daily academic tasks

Watch an interview on the Publish or Perish software