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. I specialize in applications of the Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS) approach that combines search strategies used in systematic reviews with an adapted meta-ethnography review design, and grounded theory analysis strategies. The strategy was employed in our Health Care Equity e-book. In contracted work, I have used it to explore Ageing at the Intersections for the Federal government. I have prepared a background document for use by the Inclusive Communities for Older Immigrants (ICOI) research team (PI: Dr Sepali Guruge; Funder: SSHRC Partnership grant): Social, Economic, and Political Factors Contributing to Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Older Immigrants: A Critical Interpretive Synthesis. Currently, I am conducting a CIS of qualitative literature on the experiences of people with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly with reference to their engagement with primary care physicians for the Rheumatoid Arthritis in Canadian Primary Care Settings Project (PIs: Drs. Allyson Jones & Neil Drummond; Funder: The Arthritis Society).

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?’