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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: A methodological systematic review of what's wrong with meta-ethnography reporting
Authors: France, Emma
Ring, Nicola A
Thomas, Rebecca
Noyes, Jane
Maxwell, Margaret
Jepson, Ruth
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Keywords: Meta-ethnography
Systematic review
Qualitative health research
Qualitative synthesis
Evidence-based practice
Issue Date: 19-Nov-2014
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd
Citation: France E, Ring NA, Thomas R, Noyes J, Maxwell M & Jepson R (2014) A methodological systematic review of what's wrong with meta-ethnography reporting, BMC Medical Research Methodology, 14, Art. No.: 119.
Abstract: Background: Syntheses of qualitative studies can inform health policy, services and our understanding of patient experience. Meta-ethnography is a systematic seven-phase interpretive qualitative synthesis approach well-suited to producing new theories and conceptual models. However, there are concerns about the quality of meta-ethnography reporting, particularly the analysis and synthesis processes. Our aim was to investigate the application and reporting of methods in recent meta-ethnography journal papers, focusing on the analysis and synthesis process and output. Methods: Methodological systematic review of health-related meta-ethnography journal papers published from 2012-2013. We searched six electronic databases, Google Scholar and Zetoc for papers using key terms including 'meta-ethnography.' Two authors independently screened papers by title and abstract with 100% agreement. We identified 32 relevant papers. Three authors independently extracted data and all authors analysed the application and reporting of methods using content analysis. Results: Meta-ethnography was applied in diverse ways, sometimes inappropriately. In 13% of papers the approach did not suit the research aim. In 66% of papers reviewers did not follow the principles of meta-ethnography. The analytical and synthesis processes were poorly reported overall. In only 31% of papers reviewers clearly described how they analysed conceptual data from primary studies (phase 5, 'translation' of studies) and in only one paper (3%) reviewers explicitly described how they conducted the analytic synthesis process (phase 6). In 38% of papers we could not ascertain if reviewers had achieved any new interpretation of primary studies. In over 30% of papers seminal methodological texts which could have informed methods were not cited. Conclusions: We believe this is the first in-depth methodological systematic review of meta-ethnography conduct and reporting. Meta-ethnography is an evolving approach. Current reporting of methods, analysis and synthesis lacks clarity and comprehensiveness. This is a major barrier to use of meta-ethnography findings that could contribute significantly to the evidence base because it makes judging their rigour and credibility difficult. To realise the high potential value of meta-ethnography for enhancing health care and understanding patient experience requires reporting that clearly conveys the methodology, analysis and findings. Tailored meta-ethnography reporting guidelines, developed through expert consensus, could improve reporting.
Type: Journal Article
DOI Link:
Rights: © 2014 France et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Affiliation: NMAHP Research
HS Health - Stirling
University of Stirling
Bangor University
HS Research - Stirling
HS Health - Stirling

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