Evidence & Policy
A journal of research, debate and practice

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

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  • 1 ESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice, King’s College, London, UK
  • | 2 Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London
  • | 3 Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford
  • | 4 Medical Research Council Unit, University of Glasgow
  • | 5 EPPI-Centre, University of London
  • | 6 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester
  • | 7 School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds
  • | 8 Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford
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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.

  • 1 ESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice, King’s College, London, UK
  • | 2 Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London
  • | 3 Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford
  • | 4 Medical Research Council Unit, University of Glasgow
  • | 5 EPPI-Centre, University of London
  • | 6 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester
  • | 7 School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds
  • | 8 Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford

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