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20.1  Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to outline ways in which qualitative research might be used to inform, enhance, extend and supplement Cochrane reviews. Qualitative evidence is not intended to contribute to the measures of effect of interventions, but rather to help explain, interpret and apply the results of a Cochrane review. In this way, evidence derived from qualitative studies complements systematic reviews of quantitative studies.


This chapter aims to enable authors to:

  1. consider the types of reviews and review questions for which a synthesis of qualitative evidence could enhance or extend a Cochrane review;

  2. consider the resource and methodological issues when deciding to synthesize qualitative evidence to complement a Cochrane review;

  3. signpost some of the approaches and methods available for the synthesis of qualitative evidence; and

  4. access further information, advice and resources if required.


The chapter is divided into two parts. The first part (Section 20.2) provides some considerations and guidance for the incorporation of evidence from qualitative research in Cochrane reviews, including resource implications. The second part (Section 20.3) provides a more general discussion of methodological issues, key reading and the role and details for the Cochrane Qualitative Research Methods Group. We provide an exemplar showing how a synthesis of qualitative evidence has been used to complement an existing Cochrane review of effects.