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Qualitative synthesis within the family of systematic reviews meets an urgent need to use knowledge derived from qualitative studies to inform practice, research, and policy. Despite the contingent nature of evidence gleaned from synthesis of qualitative studies, systematic synthesis is an important technique and, used judiciously, can deepen understanding of the contextual dimensions that emerge from qualitative research. This pocket guide presents an overview for planning, developing, and implementing qualitative synthesis within existing protocols and guidelines for conducting systematic reviews. The authors also explore methodological challenges, including: the philosophical tensions of integrating qualitative synthesis within the family of systematic reviews; the balance of comprehensive and iterative information retrieval strategies to locate and screen qualitative research; the use of appraisal tools to assess quality of qualitative studies; the various approaches to synthesize qualitative studies, including interpretive, integrated, and aggregative; and the tensions between the generalizability and transferability of findings that emerge from qualitative synthesis.
Social work researchers, educators, and doctoral students who are interested in systematic reviews will find the step-by-step format of this book invaluable for conducting their reviews, both in the form of rapid evidence assessments and in high-quality critical reviews.