Synthesizing Qualitative and Quantitative Health Evidence: A Guide to Methods

Synthesizing Qualitative and Quantitative Health Evidence: A Guide to Methods

Synthesizing Qualitative and Quantitative Health Evidence: A Guide to Methods

Synthesizing Qualitative and Quantitative Health Evidence: A Guide to Methods


Every year a vast number of research studies and a myriad of other forms of 'evidence' are produced that have potential to inform policy and practice. Synthesis provides a way of bringing together diverse kinds of evidence to bridge the so called 'gap' between evidence and policy.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the range of approaches and methods available for synthesising qualitative and quantitative evidence and a detailed explanation of why this is important. It does this by:

  • Looking at the different types of review and examining the place of synthesis in reviews for policy and management decision making
  • Describing the process of conducting and interpreting syntheses
  • Suggesting questions which can be used to assess the quality of a synthesis
Synthesising Qualitative and Quantitative Health Evidence is essential reading for students and professional researchers who need to assemble and synthesise findings and insights from multiple sources. It is also relevant to policy makers and practitioners in the field of health, and those working in other areas of social and public policy.


This book is a guide to how to synthesize diverse sources of evidence so that they are most likely to be useful for policy and managerial decision-making. It was written with those working as researchers, policy-makers or practitioners in the field of health in mind, but will be of use to those working in other areas of social and public policy such as education, welfare, crime and prisons, housing and so on. It is aimed at researchers (rather than decision-makers themselves) who want to conduct reviews to inform decision-making but recognise that the questions decision-makers ask are complex – for example, questions that go beyond 'what works?' and ask in addition 'when?' 'how?' and 'why?' as well as 'for which people in which circumstances?' Often the answers to these questions are located in a variety of research and non-research sources, and some of the answers may come from unpublished as well as published materials. Synthesis offers a way of understanding and using these diverse sources of evidence. Many of the methods discussed in this book have been designed to synthesize published qualitative and quantitative research findings, but some could, potentially at least, be extended to synthesize other kinds of evidence. This book describes how to undertake a review but its central focus is evidence synthesis – that part of the review process which seeks to combine and integrate evidence.

Much of what has found its way into this book developed from an overview of methods for synthesizing qualitative and quantitative evidence (Mays et al. 2005). in addition to this work, each us has also undertaken primary research on issues linked to policy on public health and health services. Engagement with this type of research almost inevitably brings researchers into contact with a range of decision-makers, including national policymakers, commissioners of research, and local managers and practitioners who are looking for answers to questions about health care services and delivery, and ways of improving population health and reducing health inequalities. This book details some of the methods we have found for bridging the so-called 'gap' between evidence and policy which should make reviews more useful to these decision-makers. Many of the examples used in the book are drawn from health – principally because this is the field we know best – but we hope that the book will be equally useful to researchers and reviewers of evidence in other fields of applied social research.

As well as being applied researchers we are all also practitioners of what are called 'mixed methods' approaches to research and evaluation. We are familiar . . .

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