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J Adv Nurs. 2005 Apr;50(2):204-11.

Meta-synthesis method for qualitative research: a literature review.

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Department of Midwifery, Faculty of Health, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, UK.



This paper discusses the purpose and stages of meta-synthesis and the epistemological status of knowledge generated from the technique. Particular attention is paid to exploring the contested areas of the method that remain.


There is a growing interest in meta-synthesis as a technique for generating new insights and understanding from qualitative health care research. An increasing number of meta-synthesis papers are appearing in the nursing and midwifery literature.


Literature on the technique of meta-synthesis and examples of meta-synthesis papers were searched and reviewed. A meta-synthesis exercise was undertaken, and this informed reflection and critique of the method.


Meta-synthesis attempts to integrate results from a number of different but inter-related qualitative studies. The technique has an interpretive, rather than aggregating, intent, in contrast to meta-analysis of quantitative studies. Examples from the literature indicate that some aspects of the technique are not yet fully established.


Despite the contingent nature of evidence gleaned from meta-synthesis and current lack of consensus about some of its aspects, meta-synthesis is an important technique for qualitative researchers and can deepen understanding of the contextual dimensions of health care.

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