Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

OSU Navigation Bar

The Ohio State University

Health Sciences Library

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 entails reviewing and translating ethnographic interpretations of social explanations of observations made by ethnographers.  It encapsulates Spicer's use of emic/etic observations and analysis, respectively, and synthesizes those interpretations for readers interested in that particular topic or finding. (Noblit & Hare, 2011).

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

Examples of Different Types of Evidence Syntheses 

Hoang, N.-P. T., & Kirby, J. N. (2020). A Meta-ethnography Synthesis of Joint Care Practices between Parents and Grandparents from Asian Cultural Backgrounds: Benefits and Challenges. Journal of Child & Family Studies29(3), 605–619. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01553-y

Brookfield, S., Fitzgerald, L., Selvey, L., & Maher, L. (2019). Turning points, identity, and social capital: A meta-ethnography of methamphetamine recovery. International Journal of Drug Policy67, 79–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.02.002

Parekh, R., Praetorius, R. T., & Nordberg, A. (2018). Carers’ Experiences in Families Impacted by Huntington’s Disease: A Qualitative Interpretive Meta-SynthesisBritish Journal of Social Work48(3), 675–692. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcw173

Duke, T. S. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth with disabilities: a meta-synthesisJournal of LGBT Youth8(1), 1–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2011.519181

Rees, C. E., Lee, S. L., Huang, E., Denniston, C., Edouard, V., Pope, K., Sutton, K., Waller, S., Ward, B., & Palermo, C. (2020). Supervision training in healthcare: a realist synthesisAdvances in Health Sciences Education25(3), 523–561. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-019-09937-x

Wiese, A., Kilty, C., & Bennett, D. (2018). Supervised workplace learning in postgraduate training: a realist synthesis. Medical Education52(9), 951–969. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13655

Killackey, T., Peter, E., MacIver, J., & Mohammed, S. (2019). Advance care Planning in Heart Failure: A Narrative synthesis of the Perspectives of Patients, Family Members, and Healthcare Providers. Canadian Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing29(3), 16–25.

Carton, A. M., Cordwell, J., & Steinhardt, K. (2020). A framework synthesis reviewing the impact of neonatal care unit admission on early caregiver–infant relationships. Journal of Advanced Nursing (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)76(12), 3258–3272. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.14538

MUKATTASH, T. L., JARAB, A. S., MUKATTASH, I., NUSAIR, M. B., ABU FARHA, R., BISHARAT, M., & BASHETI, I. A. (2020). Pharmacists’ perception of their role during COVID-19: a qualitative content analysis of posts on Facebook pharmacy groups in Jordan. Pharmacy Practice (1886-3655)18(3), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.18549/PharmPract.2020.3.1900

Lewis, G. M., Neville, C., & Ashkanasy, N. M. (2017). Emotional intelligence and affective events in nurse education: A narrative review. Nurse education today53, 34–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2017.04.001