CaHRU/LIH Improvement Science and Research Methods Seminar: Conducting systematic reviews of qualitative research studies

Dr Ffion Curtis from the Lincoln Institute of Health (LIH) and Despina Laparidou from CaHRU delivered the CaHRU/LIH Improvement Science and Research Methods on conducting systematic reviews of qualitative studies on 16 October 2019. The presenters clearly explained the steps involved in undertaking a qualitative systematic review and the different types available to use and under which contexts to use them. These included: formulating the research question; developing a protocol; selecting and identifying the evidence; extracting data; assessing for risk of bias; synthesising and interpreting data; conclusions; and writing a report.

The presenters used examples of a project on Guillain-Barré syndrome. In doing so, they outlined the search terms used and a flow diagram illustrated clearly the process from initial search, title and abstract review, full-text screening to the final included publications. The presenters highlighted the data that they extracted from the publications and profiled them in a table. The table gave an idea of the scope of the publications included. The presentation then covered the important process of risk of bias assessment. This was followed by justifying why they adopted thematic synthesis as opposed to other approaches to synthesising and interpreting the data. The hierarchy of coding was clearly illustrated with quotes.

In summary, the seminar provided a useful, practical insight into how to undertake systematic reviews. Everything from the type of review to undertake, through to the process of screening and assessing for bias were covered. The visual aids were clear as were the worked examples. The seminar was then followed by a series of constructive questions from the audience.

By Viet-Hai Phung

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