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Qualitative evidence syntheses: Assessing the relative contributions of multi-context and single-context reviews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Andrew Booth, Suleiman Mshelia, Chukwudi V. Analo, Sarange Brenda Nyakang'o

School/Research organisations


Aims: To examine the strengths and weaknesses of multi-context (international) qualitative evidence syntheses in comparison with single-context (typically single-country) reviews. We compare a multi-country synthesis with single-context syntheses on facility-based delivery in Nigeria and Kenya. Design: Discussion paper. Background: Qualitative evidence increasingly contributes to decision-making. International organizations commission multi-context reviews of qualitative evidence to gain a comprehensive picture of similarities and differences across comparable (e.g., low- and middle-income) countries. Such syntheses privilege breadth over contextual detail, risking inappropriate interpretation and application of review findings. Decision-makers value single-context syntheses that account for the contexts of their populations and health services. We explore how findings from multi- and single-context syntheses contribute against a conceptual framework (adequacy, coherence, methodological limitations and relevance) that underpins the GRADE Confidence in Evidence of Reviews of Qualitative Evidence approach. Data sources: Included studies and findings from a multi-context qualitative evidence synthesis (2001–2013) and two single-context syntheses (Nigeria, 2006–2017; and Kenya, 2002–2016; subsequently updated and revised). Findings: Single-context reviews contribute cultural, ethnic and religious nuances and specific health system factors (e.g., use of a voucher system). Multi-context reviews contribute to universal health concerns and to generic health system concerns (e.g., access and availability). Implications for nursing: Nurse decision-makers require relevant, timely and context-sensitive evidence to inform clinical and managerial decision-making. This discussion paper informs future commissioning and use of multi- and single-context qualitative evidence syntheses. Conclusion: Multi- and single-context syntheses fulfil complementary functions. Single-context syntheses add nuances not identifiable in the remit and timescales of a multi-context review. Impact This study offers a unique comparison between multi-context and single country (Nigeria and Kenya) qualitative syntheses exploring facility-based birth. Clear strengths and weaknesses were identified to inform commissioning and application of future syntheses. Characteristics can inform the commissioning of single- and multi-context nursing-oriented reviews across the world.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3812-3822
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • facility-based delivery, midwives, nursing research, qualitative evidence synthesIs, research findings, systematic reviews

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