Background: Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) published Cochrane’s first qualitative evidence synthesis (QES) in 2013. The QES explored factors affecting the implementation of lay health worker (LHW) programmes. It complements another review on LHW programme effectiveness. EPOC now produces the majority of QES in Cochrane (currently 4 titles, 4 protocols, 4 reviews).
There is a growing amount of QES guidance in Cochrane, including from the Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group (QIMG). But methods are still evolving, and we have more to learn about how to implement existing guidance. We also need to explore what reporting standards are needed for QES in the Cochrane context.
The relative novelty of QES methods has meant that EPOC’s support to and collaboration with QES authors has been close. This has provided an ideal environment for cumulative learning. The editorial team has provided methodological continuity and review teams have shared their unpublished work with other teams. Review teams have thereby been able to draw on the experiences of others, adopt what works and avoid what doesn’t. By using these experiences as a basis for our QES template, we hope to support future review teams within and outside EPOC.
Objectives: to present EPOC’s QES template
Methods: the template was based on our experiences with 10 QES from EPOC or co-authored by EPOC editors. Each review team followed standard procedures: submitting a title; a protocol; and a full review. At each stage, the editorial team assessed the submission. Protocols and reviews were also assessed by external peer reviewers and the QIMG. In addition, review authors had discussions with the EPOC editorial team on challenges they were experiencing. With their permission, the editorial team also shared review drafts from other review teams who were experiencing similar challenges.
To develop the template, one EPOC editor extracted the protocol and review content from existing EPOC QES and organised this by review section (title, abstract, methods section etc). EPOC’s QES editors and Managing Editor then assessed this content and discussed solutions for each section, informed by our reviews, Cochrane guidance and qualitative research principles.
Results: our template is now being tested by new review teams and we expect it to evolve. Currently, our template gives guidance for each section, including:
- suggested subheadings;
- an explanation of the type of content each section should include;
- where appropriate, proposals for standardised text;
- links or references to additional information;
- appendices with examples of how each section could be written.
Conclusions: the EPOC template provides practical support to Cochrane QES review authors and helps to support production of a more diverse range of Cochrane reviews.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: consumers were not involved in the template development.