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Qualitative synthesis in practice: some pragmatics of meta-ethnography

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Lee, Ruth Hart, Rose Watson, Dr Tim Rapley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Synthesising qualitative research involves working through difficult practical issues. Drawing upon our collective experience of undertaking three meta-ethnographies, we consider the forms of work – the practical action and practical reasoning – comprising this kind of synthesis and the difference they make to a meta-ethnography. We detail the origins and aims of meta-ethnography, and present a review of existing meta-ethnographies with a specific focus on the methods the authors reported as central to the conduct of meta-ethnography. We consider the implications of these methods and the reason for the presence (and absence) of particular practices in reporting on meta-ethnographies. Drawing upon our own experiences of conducting meta-ethnographies we focus on the methods used in two key practices central to meta-ethnography: ‘reading’ and ‘conceptual innovation’. We conclude by discussing how the meta-ethnographic process requires active reading, a recognition of multiplicity, a realistic approach to conceptual innovation and, importantly, collaborative work.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lee RP, Hart RI, Watson RM, Rapley T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Qualitative Research

Year: 2015

Volume: 15

Issue: 3

Pages: 334-350

Print publication date: 01/06/2015

Online publication date: 24/02/2014

Acceptance date: 08/12/2013

Date deposited: 20/12/2015

ISSN (print): 1468-7941

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3109

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1468794114524221


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Funder referenceFunder name
19625Arthritis Research UK
19624Arthritis Research UK