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Evidence Synthesis of QUalItative Research in Europe (ESQUIRE16) 

Methods Workshop on Qualitative Evidence Synthesis


*  ESQUIRE16 ran from Wednesday, 14th - Friday, 16th September 2016 in Sheffield, UK.  See ScHARR Short Course Unit Pages for details* 

*                                                                                                                                                                *


This is a site to support the Evidence Synthesis of QUalItative Research in Europe (ESQUIRE) Methods Workshops on Qualitative Evidence Synthesis [Co-ordinated by the Cochrane Qualitative Research & Implementation Methods Group]


Overview of the course:

This course is designed to provide participants with a state-of-the art perspective on the methodology of qualitative systematic reviews (qualitative evidence syntheses). It will focus on methods that feature in the forthcoming guidance of the Cochrane Qualitative Research Methods Group but will also incorporate a broader perspective on available methods of qualitative synthesis.


Suitable for:

  • Qualitative Researchers who want to learn how to synthesise qualitative research
  • Systematic Reviewers who want to learn how to translate synthesis methods to qualitative data
  • PhD Students in topic areas that will require substantive review of qualitative research
  • New researchers who want to develop evidence synthesis/systematic review
  • Qualitative systematic reviewers who want to update and extend their skills and knowledge


Expected outcomes of this Programme:

By the end of this programme participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the main methods of evidence synthesis in terms of their strengths and weaknesses
  2. Rehearse the stages of the systematic review process, specifically in relation to the methodological challenges associated with synthesis of qualitative evidence
  3. Distinguish between aggregative and interpretive approaches to qualitative evidence synthesis
  4. Identify circumstances under which framework analysis or grounded theory-based approaches to synthesis are most appropriate
  5. Describe the requirements for presenting data and disseminating the findings of qualitative evidence syntheses, both as standard-alone reviews and when integrating with the outputs of quantitative systematic reviews.


Overview of content:

The course will follow the main steps of the systematic review process as it applies, and is adapted to, qualitative evidence syntheses. The Programme Faculty will take participants through the stages of defining and exploring scope, conducting the literature searches, quality assessing studies for inclusion, synthesising data and writing up and presenting the product of the synthesis. The emphasis will be on those aspects of methods that either relate specifically to qualitative evidence synthesis or that need to be translated or adapted in order to meet new methodological challenges. Participants will be provided with an excellent overview of current methods of qualitative evidence synthesis together with practical experience of key stages in the review process.


Pre course requirements

No formal experience is required. A working knowledge of standard systematic review methods will be an advantage – alternatively participants would find it helpful to read Systematic Reviews: CRD’s guidance for undertaking reviews in healthcare (http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/systematic_reviews_book.htmprior to the course. A background in qualitative research methodologies would be advantageous but is not essential .



The Halifax Conference Centre, Sheffield, S10 3ER


Day 1 – Planning, Scoping and Searching the Literature

10am - 4pm (Course Evening Dinner at approximately 7pm)

10 am    Introduction and Overview

10:20 Practical Exercise - Readers’ Guide to Qualitative Evidence Synthesis

10:50 Where to Start: Choosing a Topic and Focusing Your Question

            Mini Exercise – Focusing Your Own Question

11:00-11:15 BREAK

11:25 Writing Your Protocol and Planning Your Review

            Practical – Using PubMed PubReminer to plan and scope your review

11:55 Issues and Challenges about Sampling


12:15 Lunch


13:00 Searching for Qualitative Evidence (Part One) - Sources and Strategies

Mini Exercise – Identifying Qualitative Keywords


13:45 Searching and Sifting for Qualitative Evidence (Part Two) - Using Filters & Supplementary Methods

            Practical – Using PubMed Health Services Research Qualitative Filters

            Practical – Selecting Studies


15:00 Break

15:15-15:45 Issues and Challenges about Focusing the Question and Searching


15:45 Feedback and Questions


16:00 Close


Day 2 – Extracting, Assessing and Synthesising Data

09:00 What is Data and Where is it Found?

09:20 Practical - Data Extraction

10:00 Choosing Your Checklist

10:20-11:30 Practical – Quality Assessment (including Refreshments 10:45 - 11:00)

11:30 Issues and Challenges about Quality Assessment


12:00-12:45 Lunch


12:45 Choosing Your Method of Qualitative Synthesis

13:10 -14:15 Practical - Developing Descriptive Themes

14:15 – 15:00 Practical - Generating Analytical Themes

15:00 Break

15:15-15:45 Issues and Challenges about Synthesis

15:45 Feedback and Questions

16:00 Close

Day 3 – Analysing Your Data and Writing Up Your Review


09:00 Using Theory to Inform Your Synthesis and Analysis

09:30 Practical Session: On Theory and Frameworks

11:00 Coffee Break

11:15 Presenting Your Data

12:15 Lunch

13:00 Using CERQual and Making Recommendations

14:00 Writing Up and Reporting Standards

14:45 Questions, Feedback and Conclusion

15:00 Depart





Select Bibliography 


Further Information


Seers 2012 What is a qualitative synthesis.pdf

Snilstveit et al (2012) Narrative approaches.pdf

Tong 2014 A guide to reading and using systematic reviews.pdf 


ASQUS Discussion List

Cochrane HandbookChapter 20: Qualitative research and Cochrane reviews. Noyes J, Popay J, Pearson A, Hannes K and Booth A on behalf of the Cochrane Qualitative Research Methods Group. Copyright © 2008 The Cochrane Collaboration.

Cochrane Qualitative Evidence Synthesis Register
Cochrane Qualitative Research Methods Group 

First Ever Qualitative Cochrane Review

Cochrane QIMG Anniversary Article


Realist synthesis protocols:

Protocol: a realist review of user fee exemption policies for health services in Africa

Protocol: Assessing the outcomes of participatory research: protocol for identifying, selecting, appraising and synthesizing the literature for realist review

Protocol: Understanding the relationship between the perceived characteristics of clinical practice guidelines and their uptake: protocol for a realist review


Tools to Assist Qualitative Reviewers

  • Cochrane Guidance

Chapter 1: Developing a protocol in REVMAN (in development)

Chapter 2: Question Formulation

Chapter 3: Searching

Chapter 4: Critical appraisal

Chapter 5: Data-extraction

Chapter 6: Synthesis


CRD Undertaking Systematic Reviews - Chapter 6 on Incorporating qualitative evidence in or alongside effectiveness reviews

Exemplar: 'Medication career' or 'Moral career'? The two sides of managing antidepressants: A metaethnography of patients' experience of antidepressants


In A Nutshell series

1. Best Fit Framework Synthesis


Email: Andrew Booth


An Archive of the materials from ESQUIRE2009ESQUIRE2010ESQUIRE2011; ESQUIRE2012; ESQUIRE2013; ESQUIRE2014 ESQUIRE2015 is also available. 


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