Knowledge synthesis

Researchers typically review the relevant literature in relation to the topics of interest for publications or grant applications, but systematic approaches to reviewing entail a much larger investment of time to ensure comprehensive inclusion/exclusion of sources and transparency.

The Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) “defines synthesis as 'the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods'” (, 2010)

Systematic reviews are often preceded by scoping reviews that seek to define the shape of the extant literature as we did in our CIHR-funded scoping review on the health and health care access and utilization of ethnocultural minority older adults. The same goals of replicability and transparency apply, and clear methodologies must be followed and reported. Both our Health Care Equity and my Ageing at the Intersections review employed a Critical Interpretive Synthesis approach, the latter much more explicitly. I have also participated as a team member on Dr. Sue Mills’ realist synthesis, Understanding how self-management interventions work for disadvantaged populations living with chronic conditions. The goal of a realist synthesis is to understand ‘what interventions work for whom and in what context?’