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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 meta-ethnography conduct to articulate the complex analytical phases
Author(s): France, Emma F
Uny, Isabelle
Ring, Nicola
Turley, Ruth L
Maxwell, Margaret
Duncan, Edward A S
Jepson, Ruth G
Roberts, Rachel J
Noyes, Jane
Keywords: meta-ethnography
systematic review
qualitative evidence synthesis
qualitative research
research design
Issue Date: 18-Feb-2019
Date Deposited: 29-Jan-2019
Citation: France EF, Uny I, Ring N, Turley RL, Maxwell M, Duncan EAS, Jepson RG, Roberts RJ & Noyes J (2019) A methodological systematic review of meta-ethnography conduct to articulate the complex analytical phases. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 19, Art. No.: 35.
Abstract: Background: Decision making in health and social care requires robust syntheses of both quantitative and qualitative evidence. Meta-ethnography is a seven-phase methodology for synthesising qualitative studies. Developed in 1988 by sociologists in education Noblit and Hare, meta-ethnography has evolved since its inception; it is now widely used in healthcare research and is gaining popularity in education research. The aim of this article is to provide up-to-date, in-depth guidance on conducting the complex analytic synthesis phases 4 to 6 of meta-ethnography through analysis of the latest methodological evidence. Methods: We report findings from a methodological systematic review conducted from 2015 to 2016. Fourteen databases and five other online resources were searched. Expansive searches were also conducted resulting in inclusion of 57 publications on meta-ethnography conduct and reporting from a range of academic disciplines published from 1988 to 2016. Results: Current guidance on applying meta-ethnography originates from a small group of researchers using the methodology in a health context. We identified that researchers have operationalised the analysis and synthesis methods of meta-ethnography – determining how studies are related (phase 4), translating studies into one another (phase 5), synthesising translations (phase 6) and line of argument synthesis - to suit their own syntheses resulting in variation in methods and their application. Empirical research is required to compare the impact of different methods of translation and synthesis. Some methods are potentially better at preserving links with the context and meaning of primary studies, a key principle of meta-ethnography. A meta-ethnography can and should include reciprocal and refutational translation and line of argument synthesis, rather than only one of these, to maximise the impact of its outputs. Conclusion: The current work is the first to articulate and differentiate the methodological variations and their application for different purposes and represents a significant advance in the understanding of the methodological application of meta-ethnography.
DOI Link: 10.1186/s12874-019-0670-7
Rights: © The Author(s). 2019 This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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