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Evidence Synthesis: Workflows

Guidance through the process for Evidence Synthesis.

The process, workflow

This guide will introduce you the steps in the process or workflow for evidence synthesis which requires careful planning and project managing

Evidence can be a case study, report, randomized controlled trial, articles, policy, theory or data. Reviewing the evidence in a systematic way is the agreed process for consistency and planned methodology. The evidence is synthesized which is evaluating and creating connections between the evidence and the literature. Published outputs can include: protocol, methods section within a review or a published article in its own right. Teamwork is essential.

What is Evidence Synthesis?

Project Managing

Project managing the various stages of the research workflow is key in order to manage time and expectations well and to be mindful of the time sequencing of outputs. 

Sage Research Methods - Project Planner Tool - Planning and Practicalities 

Guidance for methodologies

A methodology is the strategy which underpins the methods which are being used for synthesizing the evidence. Applying sound methodologies for identifying, selecting, appraising, analyzing and determining the strength of the evidence to answer the questions posed.

Guidance Handbooks

Centre for Reviews and Dissemination

 Cochrane Methods – Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions

EPPI Centre Home (ioe.ac.uk) - specialises in developing methods for: (i) systematic reviewing and synthesis of research evidence; and (ii) the study of the use research. 

Joanna Briggs Institute Manual for Evidence Synthesis: Scoping Reviews

Methodological Expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR)

Methodological Standards for the Research Covered in Campbell Reviews

Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews (AHRQ)

Methods groups

Cochrane Qualitative & Implementation Methods Group

Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group (RRMG)

What research has already been done?

Check for protocols and other synthesis types such as scoping reviews, rapid reviews, systematic literature reviews and mixed methods reviews:

Cochrane Library a collection of databases which includes the Cochrane Database of  Systematic Reviews.

Campbell Collaboration producing systematic reviews and evidence gap maps in areas such as crime, justice and education.

PROSPERO an international register for protocols for some review types including systematic and rapid reviews.

Choosing the right synthesis type for your question is important and following the associated methodologies.

Appraising previous reviews for quality:

AMSTAR - A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews

CASP - Critical Appraisal Skills Checklists

ROBIS - Asses risk of bias in Systematic Reviews

Frameworks

There are many frameworks such as PEO, PICO, SPIDER, which can help to develop your research area and form your research question by:

  • Breaking down the research area into various concepts
  • Using these concepts to form search strategies
  • Identifying the key concept for the research question
  • Defining inclusion and exclusion criteria 

Note: The research question may not fit to a framework, what is important is that all the descriptors for concepts and terms have been captured through rigorous searching.

Develop a research - question - LibGuides at Duke University Medical Center

Munn, Z., Stern, C., Aromataris, E. et al. What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed typology and guidance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences. BMC Med Res Methodol 18, 5 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-017-0468-4.

Library Service for Evidence-Based Research (EBR)

The Glucksman Library Service Level Charter for Evidence-Based Research (EBR) presents a 3-tiered service to support researchers:

  • Tier 1: Targeted for all to help to build awareness of the EBR approach, through a series of sequential, Librarian-led group workshops and online teaching resources.
  • Tier 2: Trained researchers consulting with Librarians to design and plan their project.
  • Tier 3: Expert level research partnership with Librarians collaborating on an EBR project.

Evidence-Based Research (EBR) is the overall context for guidance in the process for evidence synthesis:

“the use of prior research in a systematic and transparent way to inform a new study so that the research is answering questions that matter in a valid, efficient and accessible manner.” (EVBRES 2018).

EVBRES [2018] White paper for European Commission, “The need for an Evidence-Based Research approach in health science", CA 17117, evbres.eu.