Introduction: Approaches to the synthesis of qualitative research have existed for more than 20 years and have evolved significantly during that time. One common approach is meta-aggregation, as advocated by JBI. There is now a considerable number of published reviews that claim to follow the JBI approach to meta-aggregation. This methodological review sought to determine the extent to which a selection of these reviews follow the available guidance, with a view to establishing compliance and identifying potential areas for improvement.
Methods: The JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports (JBISRIR) was searched from 2015 to 2017 to identify all qualitative systematic reviews following the JBI approach. Citations were screened by two independent reviewers, and data extraction was conducted independently by at least two reviewers. Eligible reviews were then assessed against the JBI methodological guidance and ENTREQ statement to determine compliance.
Results: From the search, 33 health care-related reviews that met the inclusion criteria were identified. Several areas were identified where reviewers consistently made errors or did not clearly report their findings, including study screening and selection issues (particularly how this was done and by whom), transparent rationale for study exclusion, who performed data extraction and how, processes for developing synthesized findings, and the development and presentation of recommendations.
Conclusion: Although qualitative synthesis has come a long way, there are still some areas for improvement in conduct and reporting. This has implications for those who develop guidance and provide education to systematic reviewers.
- qualitative evidence synthesis
- qualitative research synthesis
- systematic review