Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 61-81

First online:

Publication bias as a threat to the validity of meta-analytic results

  • Hannah R. RothsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Management Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College—CUNY Email author 

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This paper reviews the evidence in support of the contention that publication bias is a potential threat to the validity of meta-analytic results in criminology and similar fields. It then provides a critique of the traditional file drawer or failsafe N method for examining publication bias, and an overview of four newer methods that can be used to detect publication bias. These include two (trim and fill and cumulative meta-analysis) that enable the researcher to estimate the magnitude of the influence of publication bias on the overall mean effect size. Advantages and limitations of both traditional and newer methods are examined. The methods reviewed are illustrated through their application to a meta-analysis of the effects of drug courts on recidivism by Wilson et al. (Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2, 459–487, 2006).


Failsafe N Funnel plot Meta-analysis Publication bias Trim and fill Validity