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On this page you will find the following helpful resources:
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
Butler, Ashleigh, Helen Hall, Beverley Copnell. (2016). A Guide to Writing a Qualitative Systematic Review Protocol to Enhance Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing and Health Care. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing 13(3): 241-249.
Higgins JPT, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 6.3 (updated February 2022). Cochrane, 2022. Available from www.training.cochrane.org/handbook..
See Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Volume 97, May 2018, Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group Guidance Series. UNC Chapel Hill users direct link.
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 January 1, 2005 vol. 10 no. 1 45-53B
Harden, Angela. Mixed-Methods Systematic Reviews: Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Findings. FOCUS 25, 2010.
Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewer's Manual Chapter 2 (Systematic Reviews of Qualitative Evidence): Lockwood C, Porrit K, Munn Z, Rittenmeyer L, Salmond S, Bjerrum M, Loveday H, Carrier J, Stannard D. Chapter 2: Systematic reviews of qualitative evidence. In: Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors). Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewer's Manual, 4th edition. The Joanna Briggs Institute, 2017. Available from https://reviewersmanual.joannabriggs.org/
Ludvigsen, Mette S., Elizabeth O.C. Hall, Gabriele Meyer, Liv Fegran, Hanne Aagaard, Lisbeth Uhrenfeldt. (2015) Using Sandelowski and Barroso’s Meta-Synthesis Method in Advancing Qualitative Evidence. Qualitative Health Research 26(3).PMID:25794523 DOI:10.1177/1049732315576493
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 (Trials) and David Gough (Systematic Reviews) (eds) Qualitative Methods, Trials, and Systematic Reviews. Joint Publication, Trials and Systematic Reviews.
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
PLOS Medicine Staff. (2016). Correction: Using Qualitative Evidence in Decision Making for Health and Social Interventions: An Approach to Assess Confidence in Findings from Qualitative Evidence Syntheses (GRADE-CERQual). PLoS Medicine, 13(6), e1002065. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002065 PMID:27284910 PMCID: PMC4902189
See additional information in Website/Tutorial box, below.
Cochrane Methods: Qualitative & Implementation - Core Library of Qualitative Synthesis Methodology
Meta-ethnography is generally considered an interpretative (vs. aggregative) qualitative synthesis approach.
Funded by the National Institute for Health Research of the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, The aim of the eMERGe project, which ran from June 2015 to May 2017, was to develop a guideline to improve the way researchers report meta-ethnographies. The website includes many resources and publications. From the website:
Meta-ethnography differs from other qualitative evidence synthesis approaches in its underpinning theory, use of the authors’ interpretations (e.g. concepts, themes) from primary qualitative studies as data, and creation of new interpretations through its unique analytic synthesis process. Researchers select, analyse and interpret qualitative studies to answer focused questions on a specific topic (e.g. people’s experiences of having and being treated for arthritis) to come up with new insights and conclusions. The aim of the eMERGe project was to develop a guideline to improve the way researchers report meta-ethnographies.
Note from the Core Library: The following items represent key methodology resources. No endorsement of individual methods is implied by inclusion in this list. See Supplemental Handbook Guidance.
Temple University Libraries: What is a Meta-Synthesis
Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group
JBI/Joanna Briggs Institute Manual for Evidence Synthesis Chapter 2 (Systematic Reviews of Qualitative Evidence): Lockwood C, Porrit K, Munn Z, Rittenmeyer L, Salmond S, Bjerrum M, Loveday H, Carrier J, Stannard D. Chapter 2: Systematic reviews of qualitative evidence. In: Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors). JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. JBI, 2020. Available from https://synthesismanual.jbi.global. https://doi.org/10.46658/JBIMES-20-03
Canadian Cochrane Center YouTube Tutorial on Qualitative Evidence Synthesis, published Dec 2, 2013
This recording is of the first webinar of the 2013-2014 Different Evidence, Different Syntheses Series. Jane Noyes of the Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group for the discussion was the presenter for the webinar held on November 28, 2013.This webinar explored:
a) when to consider undertaking a synthesis of qualitative evidence;
b) some frequently used methods and examples of developing methods for synthesising qualitative evidence; and
c) approaches for integrating qualitative and quantitative findings.
Seminar on CerQual: a new approach to qualitative evidence synthesis analysis Oct 13, 2014
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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