Origins, methods and advances in qualitative meta-synthesis
Review of Education
Qualitative research is a broad term encompassing many methods. Critiques of the field of qualitative research argue that while individual studies provide rich descriptions and insights, the absence of connections drawn between studies limits their usefulness. In response, qualitative meta-synthesis serves as a design to interpret and synthesise qualitative findings across individual studies. More than a broad summary, meta-syntheses do not aim merely to summarise all available data; rather, qualitative meta-syntheses present new perspectives on topics through interpreting findings from different qualitative studies to create ‘third-level’ findings for the advancement of both knowledge and theory. The diversity of opinion on qualitative meta-synthesis is mirrored in its practice. Several different approaches to qualitative meta-synthesis have emerged, with most connected to the meta-ethnographic procedures originally outlined in 1988. This paper: (1) discusses the key philosophical and methodological issues in the literature on qualitative meta-synthesis, (2) highlights key methods that are used in qualitative meta-synthesis, and (3) offers an overview of where the field is going. Examples from the last four years of qualitative meta-syntheses highlight some of this design's current contributions and future usefulness for research in the field of education.