Advancing the Field of Synthesis Scholarship: A Response to Nicky Britten and Colleagues

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Abstract

Continuing the dialogue and debate on the relevance and value of qualitative metasynthesis research for the health fields, Thorne comments on some of the ideas raised by Britten and colleagues in response to her January 2017 Qualitative Health Research editorial on Metasynthetic Madness. Here she extends the debate on the terminology with which we refer to this kind of scholarly work and the kinds of research synthesis that hold potential for adding value to existing knowledge about matters of health and illness. In the spirit of engaging an ongoing critical conversation, she proposes that the kinds of metasynthesis products that get published ought to be those capable of demonstrating actual relevance. She reminds us that the procedural steps that have come to be associated with metasynthesis in many of the recently published reports are merely the stage-setting one does in order to prepare the way for the actual intellectual work of synthesis. By whatever name it is known, if qualitative synthesis is to make a meaningful scholarly contribution in the health domain, Thorne argues that it must demonstrate the kind of thoughtfully critical and interpretive intellectual engagement that takes our understanding of phenomena significantly beyond what we could have known on the basis of an ordinary kind of literature review, offering us an original form of insight that would not have been otherwise accessible.

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