Session: A Workshop on Qualitative Research Synthesis: Clarifying Approaches and Methods (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

38 A Workshop on Qualitative Research Synthesis: Clarifying Approaches and Methods

Thursday, January 11, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Independence BR F (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
James Drisko, PhD, Smith College
Synthesizing qualitative research is a way to extend the scope and quality of qualitative studies. Combining the results of multiple qualitative studies allows for refinement of descriptions, concepts and theory; it often generates knowledge not found in any single study. These syntheses often have direct implications for policy, administration and practice – including evidence-based practice. There are multiple designs and methods of qualitative research synthesis (QRS). Unfortunately, overlapping and confusing terminology challenges learning. QRS is evident in a growing number of published social work qualitative synthesis studies, but is not yet widely addressed in MSW or PhD courses. This workshop offers information about an under-studied but important research topic. It follows prior papers at SSWR with a detailed knowledge building workshop. An exemplar study is used to explicate the steps of QRS and other analytic decisions. First, to ensure learning by participants, this workshop will describe the purposes of QRS and how epistemological differences impact its use. Second, the five core named methods of QRS will be identified. These two steps provide an overview of QRS models. Third, the seven steps of doing a QRS project will be explicated, drawing on Noblit and Hare's pioneering work. These steps parallel those of quantitative systematic reviews addressing: a) defining the topic, b) setting parameters for the search and study quality, c) comprehensively searching the literature, d) reviewing study quality, e) extracting key concepts and/or interpretations, f) synthesizing the extracting material, and g) writing up the study methods and results. Different challenges face researchers doing QRS than doing a systematic review. Fourth, the challenges of locating qualitative studies are examined, including search tools and limitations to database keywords cataloguing qualitative studies. The lack of consensus definitions for qualitative methods poses challenges to the QRS literature search and study quality review. Fifth, approaches to assessing included study quality will be examined. Checklist and internal coherence approaches will be introduced. Sixth, the comparison and contrast techniques of QRS are detailed and critically analyzed. These include reciprocal translation where studies address similar content but using different concepts and language; refutational analysis where studies diverge in results and language; and lines of argument synthesis where similar content is addressed but in ways that only minimally overlap – excluding reciprocal translation (Noblit & Hare, 1988). Later work builds on these three techniques but continues to employ their core features. For example, in social work, Aguirre and Bolton ‘qualitative interpretive metasynthesis' focuses on how context shapes perspective using lines of argument synthesis. Examples of each analytic approach are provided. Documenting and maintaining a close connection or grounding between the original works and their data will be emphasized. Seventh, strategies for summarizing and writing up QRS results are described. Maintaining transparency and limiting bias are key concerns throughout QRS. Content will be addressed didactically using a published exemplar to identify dilemmas and choice points. Participants will receive a list of published social work QSR studies. The topics listed above are addressed in the workshop, with time for questions and discussion.
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