The eMERGe Project - Developing a meta-ethnography reporting guideline

We want to ensure that the best use is made of research evidence for the benefit of people who use health and social care services; that is why we are carrying out the eMERGe project.

The NHS needs high quality research evidence to help it design health services and make decisions affecting patients. It is widely accepted that the practice of health and social care professionals should take account of the best available research evidence. Pulling together (synthesising) evidence from many existing qualitative studies, such as those using patient interviews, is increasingly seen as important in making sense of research information. It can explain, for example, how and why health services or policies work or not, why patients or health professionals behave in a certain way, or what it is like to experience an illness. Synthesising evidence from quantitative studies, such as trials, can increase our understanding of what works but qualitative synthesis can explain why things work and explain the range of patient experiences for any specific health condition, issue or service. 

What is meta-ethnography?

Meta-ethnography is a respected, thorough qualitative synthesis method in which researchers select,  analyse and interpret qualitative studies to answer focused questions on a specific topic (e.g. people’s experiences of having and being treated for arthritis) to come up with new insights and conclusions. Findings from high-quality meta-ethnographies have been used in clinical guidelines. However, the reporting quality of published meta-ethnographies varies and is often poor, especially researchers’ descriptions of what they did to arrive at their findings. Low-quality reporting means that people, such as patients, NHS staff and managers, cannot judge the quality and thoroughness of a meta-ethnography. This can lead to lack of trust in meta-ethnography findings (which could be of great benefit) meaning that they are not used to improve decisions, services and patient care.

To ensure that evidence from meta-ethnographies is used, researchers must carry out quality meta-ethnographies and report them to a high standard, but there is no tailored guideline to help researchers do this. Our research aims to develop a guideline to improve the way researchers report meta-ethnographies. To decide what goes into the guideline we will:

  • carry out a literature review to identify and analyse published work that describes how researchers should be doing and reporting meta-ethnographies
  • examine examples of high and low quality published meta-ethnographies to see how they were conducted and reported
  • bring together meta-ethnography experts and people who use research evidence including lay people, policy makers, and health professionals to agree the content of the guidelines
  • write and publish a detailed document to explain how to use the guideline and how it was developed and create a report template for meta-ethnographies.

The Project Team

The eMERGe project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Service and Delivery Research Programme (Grant Number 13/114/60).

eMerge Team 2016

Members of the project team are

  • Dr Emma France (Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Research Unit, NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)
  • Dr Edward Duncan (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)
  • Dr Maggie Cunningham (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)
  • Professor Margaret Maxwell (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)
  • Dr Nicola Ring (Health Sciences, University of Stirling)
  • Professor Jane Noyes (Bangor University)
  • Ruth Turley (Cardiff University)
  • Dr Ruth Jepson (Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Edinburgh)
  • Isabelle Uny (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)
  • Dr Rachel Roberts (NMAHP-RU, University of Stirling)

eMERGe also has an advisory group made up of lay people, academic experts and other professionals from a wide range of institutions.

This is a temporary website. Once the project is fully underway eMERGe will have its own website external to the University of Stirling. Watch this space for the new web address!

In the meantime if you have any questions please contact: 

Isabelle Uny: isabelle.uny@stir.ac.uk

Dr Maggie Cunningham: margaret.cunningham@stir.ac.uk

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the HS&DR Programme, NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health.

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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