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'Qualitative' research, systematic reviews, and evidence-informed policy and practice

Harden, Angela; (2007) 'Qualitative' research, systematic reviews, and evidence-informed policy and practice. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

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This thesis makes a distinctive contribution to debates about how to include and quality assess `qualitative' research in systematic reviews. It analyses sets of quality criteria, assesses the impact of study quality on findings and compares `quantitative' and `qualitative' perspectives on quality. The research consists of a review of the literature and three new methodological studies. The first study surveyed and evaluated quality assessment tools, the second analysed the development of a new tool, and the third examined the relationship between the quality of `qualitative' research and the findings of systematic reviews. A large number of different quality criteria have been proposed for `qualitative' research but assessment tools represent 'good practice' guides rather than aids to distinguish between `good' and `bad' studies. Continuous funding, a policy-focussed context, and a multi-disciplinary team which viewed research questions as drivers for quality assessment were important factors for developing a unique tool which did help to distinguish between studies. There was no straightforward relationship between study quality and the findings of reviews. However, excluding lower quality studies had little impact on review findings. Studies which made the biggest contribution to reviews were those with appropriate methods for the review question and findings displaying conceptual depth. In contrast to procedures for `quantitative' research, engaging with study findings as well as study methods is important for assessing fully the quality of `qualitative' research. This thesis generates important empirical evidence for debates about how to assess the quality of `qualitative' research. It shows how standard quality assessment protocols need to be altered better to fit `qualitative' research, reveals how study quality can impact on review findings and demonstrates some problems with the terms `qualitative' and `quantitative'. Future debate in this area should focus on how to identify reliable answers to questions about intervention process, context and need.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: 'Qualitative' research, systematic reviews, and evidence-informed policy and practice
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Leaves 333-366 are appendices
Keywords: Qualitative research,Evaluation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10019291
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