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Systematic Review: 1.2 Qualitative Data Synthesis

Qualitative Data Synthesis


In a qualitative systematic review, data will be synthesised by comprehensive critical appraisal through either a Meta-study or a Meta-synthesis.


  • A meta-study is a specific research approach in which the theory, methods and findings of qualitative research are analysed and synthesised to develop new ways of thinking about a topic.
  • A meta-synthesis uses interpretive methods to synthesise the findings from primary studies, which can often vary in important respects (such as populations or settings), to produce new insights and understandings.

Neither of these methods involves the reanalysis of raw data from the primary qualitative studies.

Both meta-studies and meta-syntheses can be used to determine what is known and what is not known, reflect on the processes and perspectives of the relevant body of research, explore the underlying methodological decisions and theoretical influences, and suggest future directions for researchers, theoreticians and clinicians.


(Definitions from:  Ried, K. (2006). Interpreting and understanding meta-analysis graphs: a practical guide)


Meta-aggregation is a simple method of clustering common characteristics and observations from similar studies into categories, which are then interpreted through a statement of synthesis.


(Source: Munn, Z, Tufanaru, C, Aromataris, E., 2014, “Data Extraction and Synthesis,” AJN 114.7, p. 53)


        Accessibility document - Meta-aggregation


    EPPI Centre: EPPI-Reviewer​ 


    Joanna Briggs Institute: SUMARI 


    Cochrane library: Qualitative synthesis methodology