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Evidence Synthesis

This guide provides an introduction to evidence synthesis as it is understood in evidence-based practice. clinical research and healthcare policy arenas.

Qualitative Evidence Synthesis

A qualitative synthesis is a narrative, textual approach to summarizing, analyzing, and assessing the body of evidence included in your review. It is a necessary part of all systematic reviews, even those with a focus on quantitative data.

Use the qualitative synthesis to:

  • Provide a general summary of the characteristics and findings of the included studies.
  • Analyze the relationships between studies, exploring patterns and investigating heterogeneity.
  • Discuss the applicability of the body of evidence to the review's question within the PICO structure.
  • Explain the meta-analysis (if one is conducted) and interpret and analyze the robustness of its results.
  • Critique the strengths and weaknesses of the body of evidence as a whole, including a cumulative assessment of the risk of bias across studies.
  • Discuss any gaps in the evidence, such as patient populations that have been inadequately studied or for whom results differ.
  • Compare the review's findings with current conventional wisdom when appropriate.

Different methods for qualitative evidence synthesis include:

Meta-synthesis

Narrative synthesis

Meta-ethnography

Framework Synthesis

Qualitative Content Analysis

Realist synthesis

Source: Hong, Q. N., Pluye, P., Bujold, M., & Wassef, M. (2017). Convergent and sequential synthesis designs: implications for conducting and reporting systematic reviews of qualitative and quantitative evidence. Systematic Reviews, 6(1), 61. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-017-0454-2 

Some Examples