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Table 5 Qualitative synthesis methods

From: Convergent and sequential synthesis designs: implications for conducting and reporting systematic reviews of qualitative and quantitative evidence

Synthesis method Aim Description
Critical interpretive synthesis [62] To build a theory from the synthesis of a diverse body of evidence. Adapted the strategies of meta-ethnography (reciprocal translational analysis, lines-of-argument synthesis, and refutational syntheses) for qualitative and quantitative evidence.
Framework synthesis [63] To produce a new framework based on a priori and new themes. Consists of analyzing data using an a priori framework, creating new themes by performing thematic synthesis, and producing a new framework.
Grouping and clustering [44] To describe included studies. Summarizes and organizes included studies into groups (categories).
Meta-ethnography [64] To build a theory from the synthesis of qualitative studies. Uses three main strategies: translating the concepts from studies into one another (reciprocal translational analysis), exploring and explaining contradictions between studies (refutational synthesis), and linking constructs and building a picture of the whole from studies (lines-of-argument synthesis).
Meta-narrative synthesis [65] To make sense of complex and conflicting findings by unfolding the storyline of research traditions. Maps research traditions and consider how they have been conceptualized, theorized, and empirically studied over time.
Meta-synthesis [66] To understand a phenomenon of interest across qualitative studies. Uses hermeneutic (portraying individual constructions) and dialectic (comparing and contrasting the constructions) approaches.
Narrative synthesis [44] To summarize and explain the findings of included studies. Adopts a textual approach to the process of synthesis and follows four elements: develop a theory of how the intervention works, why, and for whom; develop a preliminary synthesis; explore relationships within and between studies; and assess the robustness of the synthesis.
Qualitative content analysis [29] To understand a phenomenon of interest by focusing on the manifest (patent) content or contextual meaning of text. Uses an analytical coding process to organize content of textual data into fewer content categories.
Realist synthesis [67, 68] To unpack how interventions work in particular contexts through theoretical explanation (middle-range theory). Uses theory-driven context-mechanism-outcome configurations, demi-regularities, and abduction (hunches).
Textual description [44] To describe included studies. Provides a descriptive paragraph of each study.
Textual narrative synthesis [69] To describe included studies. Arranges studies into homogeneous groups and compares similarities and differences across studies.
Thematic synthesis [70] To identify and develop themes across included studies. Uses line-by-line coding, develops descriptive themes, and generates analytical themes. This might lead to propose a conceptual framework.