Systematic Reviews

About this Page

Why is this information important?

  • Researchers in health science fields are increasingly recognizing the value of including qualitative studies in systematic reviews.
  • Because qualitative and quantitative studies can be so different, however, it can be hard to know how to integrate them productively.

On this page you will find the following helpful resources:

  • Articles and chapters that discuss methods for integrating qualitative studies into systematic reviews
  • Examples of systematic reviews that include qualitative studies
  • Selected books on qualitative studies and systematic reviews that are owned by UNC Libraries
  • A short list of helpful websites and tutorials on the topic

See also:  Assessing Qualitative Research


The following articles and chapters offer some advice on how to include qualitative research in systematic reviews, as well as some examples of reviews that have done so.

Methods for Including Qualitative Research in Systematic Reviews

Cochrane Review Handbook, Chapter 20: Qualitative Research and Cochrane reviews. 2011.

Dixon-Woods M, Bonas S, Booth A, Jones DR, Miller T, Sutton AJ, Shaw RL, Smith JA, Young B. How can systematic reviews incorporate qualitative research? A critical perspective. Qualitative Research 2006; 6: 27-44.

Dixon-Woods, Mary, Shona Argawal, David Jones, Bridget Young, and Alex Sutton. Synthesizing qualitative and quantitative evidence: a review of possible methods.  J Health Serv Res Policy vol. 10 no. 1 45-53B

Harden, Angela. Mixed-Methods Systematic Reviews: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Findings. FOCUS 25, 2010.

Joanna Briggs Institute. Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewers' Manual 2014, Section 2.

Examples of Systematic Reviews Incorporating Qualitative Research

Finfgeld-Connett, Deborah. Intimate partner abuse among older women: qualitative systematic review. Clinical Nursing Research 2014, 23:6 664-683.

Lucas, Patricia, Janis Baird, Lisa Arai, Catherine Law, and Helen M. Roberts. Worked examples of alternative methods for the synthesis of qualitative and quantitative research in systematic reviews. BMC Medical Research Methodology 2007, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-7-4

Added Value of Qualitative Research with Randomized Clinical Trials

O'Cathain, Alicia, Jackie Goode, Sarah J. Drabble, Kate J. Thomas, Anne Rudolph, and Jenny Hewison.  Getting added value from using qualitative research wtih randomized controlled trials:  a qualitative interview study.  Trials 2014, 15 (June): 215.  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-215

Snowden, Claire and David Gough (eds) Ongoing: Special Issue on Qualitative Methods, Trials, and Systematic Reviews. Joint Publication, Trials and Systematic Reviews. This joint special issue is currently calling for submissions (December 2015).

Systematic Review of Qualitative Research (Meta-Synthesis)

Korhonen, Anne, Tuovi Hakulinen-Viitanen, Virpi Jylha, Arja Holopainen.  Meta-synthesis and evidence-based heath care:  a method for systemic review.  Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 2013, 27:4, 1027-1034.  doi: 10.1111/scs.12003

Search the UNC Library Catalog

The Books section of this page contains a small selection of the books available on including qualitative research in systematic reviews. To find more, click the links below to search the UNC library catalog.


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