User Manual for Meta-Essentials

The workbooks and a pdf-version of this user manual can be downloaded from here.

This is the user manual for Meta-Essentials, a set of workbooks for meta-analysis. The workbooks, as well as this manual are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you can use, share, and adapt the tools all you want, as long as you properly attribute the original effort to us.

If you use this tool for any type of publication, please cite it as follows:

  • Suurmond R, van Rhee, H, Hak T. (2017). Introduction, comparison and validation of Meta-Essentials: A free and simple tool for meta-analysis. Research Synthesis Methods. Vol. 8, Iss. 4, 537-553.

However, if you refer to the material on the website or the user manual in particular, please cite as follows:

  • Van Rhee, H.J., Suurmond, R., & Hak, T. (2015). User manual for Meta-Essentials: Workbooks for meta-analysis (Version 1.2) Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from 

Aim of this user manual

This user manual is a guide for the usage of Meta-Essentials. It is not a guide on how you should search for studies, which studies you should include, nor for how the results of the meta-analysis should be interpreted. We have written a separate text on these matters (see Hak, Van Rhee, & Suurmond, 2015). We have also published a paper that describes Meta-Essentials and how it compares to other tools for meta-analysis (Suurmond, van Rhee, and Hak 2017).


The user manual for Meta-Essentials is organized as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Select the appropriate workbook
    2.1 Effect sizes of the d-family
    2.2 Effect sizes of the r-family
  3. Work with the workbooks
    3.1 Input sheet
    3.2 Forest Plot sheet
    3.3 Subgroup Analysis sheet
    3.4 Moderator Analysis sheet
    3.5 Publication Bias Analysis sheet
          3.5.1 Funnel plot
          3.5.2 Egger regression and Begg and Mazumdar rank correlation test
          3.5.3 Standardized Residual Histogram
          3.5.4 Galbraith Plot
          3.5.5 Normal Quantile plot
          3.5.6 Failsafe-N tests
    3.6 Calculations sheet
    3.7 Statistical procedures
  4. Specific features of individual workbooks 
    4.1 Workbook 2
    4.2 Workbook 3 & 4
    4.3 Workbook 5
    4.4 Workbook 6 & 7
  5. Adapting plots for reporting

The first step when using Meta-Essentials is to choose the appropriate workbook for the meta-analysis. Then, this manual discusses how to insert data, how to perform a basic meta-analysis and to generate a forest plot, how to run a subgroup analysis, a moderator analysis, and various publication bias analyses. Also, the calculations 'behind' the sheets and the applied statistical methods are discussed, however, knowledge or understanding of these methods is not required for using Meta-Essentials. Next, the manual discusses those instructions that apply only to specific workbooks. This manual concludes with discussing guidance for how output of Meta-Essentials can be adapted for inclusion in a report.


The workbooks of Meta-Essentials are compatible with Microsoft Excel 2010, 2013 and 2016. Older versions of Microsoft Excel might work fine in some cases, but some formulas and formatting features are not supported by these older versions. Although we designed Meta-Essentials for Microsoft Excel, it also works with the freely available WPS Office 2016 Free and Microsoft Excel Online (free registration required). The workbooks of Meta-Essentials are unfortunately not compatible with OpenOffice or Google Docs. These programs do not correctly calculate all formulas and cannot display all figures.