Evidence & Policy
A journal of research, debate and practice

A multitude of syntheses: a comparison of five approaches from diverse policy fields

Authors:
Annette BoazESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice, King’s College, London, UK

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Deborah AshbyWolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

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David DenyerCranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford

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Matt EganMedical Research Council Unit, University of Glasgow

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Angela HardenEPPI-Centre, University of London

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David R. JonesDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Leicester

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Ray PawsonSchool of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

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David TranfieldCranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford

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English

This article addresses the synthesis and use of research evidence to inform policy and practice. Reviews of the evidence base in many fields have formed a crucial bridge between research, policy making and practice. Systematic review, in conjunction with meta-analysis, has become an established methodology for locating, selecting, appraising and quantitatively synthesising research evidence according to an explicit and reproducible methodology. However, the ‘standard’ systematic review template associated with the Cochrane Collaboration is often criticised for its perceived inability to cope with variation in study design, nature of evidence and study context. We present five approaches to research synthesis, conducted in different fields, using contrasting methodologies. A number of methodological, practical and strategic implications of conducting research syntheses are explored. The article aims to stimulate debate about what counts as good-quality synthesis, and to demonstrate the growing diversity in its practice. In so doing, the article offers researchers and commissioners a range of approaches to producing reviews of the evidence base.

Annette BoazESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice, King’s College, London, UK

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Deborah AshbyWolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

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David DenyerCranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford

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Matt EganMedical Research Council Unit, University of Glasgow

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Angela HardenEPPI-Centre, University of London

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David R. JonesDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Leicester

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Ray PawsonSchool of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

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David TranfieldCranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford

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