Qualitative evidence synthesis: methods for integration with effectiveness reviews

Core Methods Workshop

Workshop category: 

  • Qualitative evidence synthesis methodology
Date and Location


Tuesday 22 October 2019 - 11:00 to 12:30


Contact persons and facilitators

Contact person:


Noyes J1, Harden A1, Thomas J2
1 Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group, UK
2 EPPI-Centre, University College London, UK
Target audience

Target audience: 

Review authors, researchers with an interest in qualitative evidence synthesis

Level of difficulty: 

Type of workshop

Type of workshop : 



Background: qualitative evidence synthesis (QES) is an umbrella term for the methodologies associated with the systematic review of qualitative research evidence, conducted either as a stand-alone review or as a part of a review of interventions. Methods for conducting QES have developed against a backdrop of increasing demand from decision-makers for evidence that goes beyond ‘what works’, drawing on diverse sources of evidence. There are specific considerations when choosing QES methodology that will be integrated with an effectiveness review. In considering the choice of QES, it is important to remember that the decision is multifactorial and cannot be driven by single criterion. Additionally, the Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group (CQIMG) recommends that the final choice of method should only be determined once the pool of evidence for the review is known, cautioning against pre-specified choices of methods. Guidance published by CQIMG as a series in December 2017 offers an opportunity to give participants clearer direction on QES methods that are compatible with Cochrane Review processes.

Objectives: 1) to introduce participants to three methods for QES that are suitable for use when the aim is to integrate qualitative evidence within Cochrane effectiveness reviews: thematic synthesis, framework synthesis and meta-ethnography; 2) to provide participants with worked examples of each QES approach; and 3) to enable participants, in facilitated small groups, to identify key points in each methodology.

Description: the first 45 minutes will consist of a plenary overview of QES and the three advocated approaches, examples of these, and a brief overview of methods of integration between qualitative and quantitative methods. The next 15 minutes will be spent in facilitated small group work in which participants will be given a copy of three qualitative evidence syntheses, representing each of the advocated methods. Participants will be asked to highlight the key points in each methodology that identify the type of synthesis it is. The 90-min session will close with a discussion to determine what the groups found and issues encountered. This will facilitate discussion around factors to consider and practical tips for choosing a QES approach, drawing on facilitators’ experience and the RETREAT criteria (for Review question-Epistemology-Timescale-Resources-Expertise-Audience and purpose-Type of data).