Intended for healthcare professionals


Qualitative research in systematic reviews

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 06 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:765

Has established a place for itself

  1. Mary Dixon-Woods, lecturer in health policy (,
  2. Ray Fitzpatrick, professor (
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public health, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 6TP
  2. Division of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Institute of Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF

    The recent publication by the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination of the second edition of the guidance on undertaking systematic reviews of research on effectiveness deserves to be warmly welcomed, for many reasons.1 Perhaps chief among these is the increased recognition given to the diverse types of evidence that can contribute to systematic reviews. This suggests that the rigid insistence on controlled trials as the sole source of evidence on effectiveness that characterised the beginnings of the evidence based healthcare movement is fading. Qualitative research is now given explicit consideration in the new guidance. This is consistent with other recent recommendations emphasising the contribution of qualitative evidence to healthcare evaluation.2 The argument for giving a place to qualitative research in systematic reviews seems to have been won. There remain several issues, however, that need to be addressed in making the role of qualitative evidence in reviews more systematic.

    The move to recognise the potential value of qualitative research could do much to address …

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