Session 3C: Meta-Synthesis Findings: Potential versus Reality

Session 3C: Meta-Synthesis Findings: Potential versus Reality

Presenter: Deborah Finfgeld-Connett, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor, Sinclair School of Nursing, University of Missouri and member of the editorial review board for the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services

Moderator: Mary Tod Gray, PhD, RN, Professor of Nursing, East Stroudsburg University

Date and Time: Wednesday, August 6, 10:30 am to 11:20 am
Location:  Armory Room


  1. Identify types of meta-synthesis findings that are currently being generated.
  2.  Understand the potential impact of findings that result from primary qualitative research investigations versus those that could be producedfrom meta-syntheses.
  3. Develop insight into data analysis strategies that can be used to maximize the applicability of meta-synthesis findings in clinical practice, policy formation, and theory development.

Background. Scholars predicted that qualitative meta-synthesis research had the potential to significantly push knowledge development forward. Recently, doubts have been raised about whether this is actually occurring.

Questions. The questions that drove this examination of the meta-synthesis literature included, what types of meta-synthesis findings have been produced since Noblit and Hare’s (1988) methodological guidelines were originally published, and what types of findings should be generated in the future?

Methods. Findings from 100 randomly-selected meta-synthesis articles were systematically analyzed. Initially, Kearney’s (2001) five levels of findings were used to categorize these results. As analysis progressed, two main categories emerged.

Findings. Meta-synthesis investigations frequently result in isolated findings rather than findings in relationship, and opportunities to generate research hypotheses and theoretical models are not always realized. Strategies for moving findings into relationship and, ideally, models include: (a) posing more informed and focused research questions, (b) avoiding biased perceptions based on small samples, (c) randomly-selecting reports for analysis when large samples threaten full explication of the data, (d) maximizing the potential of data analysis and synthesis by dimensionalizing findings and placing them into storylines.

Conclusion.Findings from meta-synthesis investigations do not appear to be reaching their full potential. There is a need to move beyond reorganization and re-categorization of existing qualitative research findings and to  generate more meaningful interpretations based on sophisticated meta-synthesis methods.

Attendees will participate in activities to assess how they currently evaluate meta-synthesis findings and how they might revise their evaluation criteria. Time
for questions and answers will be allotted.

Kearney, M. H. (2001). Levels and applications of qualitative research evidence. Research in Nursing and Health, 24, 145–153. doi: 10.1002/nur.1017

Noblit, G. W., & Hare, R. D. (1988). Meta-ethnography: Synthesizing qualitative
studies. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Evaluation: Click here to evaluate this session.

Powerpoint: Finfgeld_Connett_Metasynthesis

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