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Evidence Synthesis & Systematic Review

This guide will help you get started with your next systematic review, scoping review, or other review types.

Other names for a Mixed Methods Review

Mixed Research Synthesis, Mixed Methods Synthesis, Mixed Methods Systematic Review, Mixed Papers Review, Mixed Studies Review, Qualitative & Quantitative Systematic Review

Limitations of a Mixed Methods Review

  • May result in a larger number of citations.
  • Requires more search time to create multiple searches for varying outcomes.
  • There are no universally adopted methods for conducting Mixed Methods Reviews.
  • Requires significant methodological skill.
  • Resource intensive--may take time to engage with the evidence and develop theory.
  • Not inherently reproducible or transparent because of the highly iterative nature of the interpretative process.

(Source: M. Petticrew et al (2013)

What is a Mixed Methods Review?

Mixed Methods Reviews "broaden the conceptualization of evidence, [are] more methodologically inclusive and produce syntheses of evidence that will be accessible to and usable by a wider range of consumers.” (Sandelowski et al. (2012))

"Mixed-methods systematic reviews can be defined as combining the findings of qualitative and quantitative studies within a single systematic review to address the same overlapping or complementary review questions." (Harden A. 2010)

"The mixed methods approach to conducting systematic reviews is a process whereby (1) comprehensive syntheses of two or more types of data (e.g. quantitative and qualitative) are conducted and then aggregated into a final, combined synthesis, or (2) qualitative and quantitative data are combined and synthesized in a single primary synthesis." (The Joanna Briggs Institute 2014 Reviewers Manual)

Mixed Methods Reviews are best designed for:

  • Multidisciplinary topics or topics with a body of literature that includes quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies.
  • To determine not only the effects of interventions but also their appropriateness.
  • To identify research gaps.
  • To provide an explanation for possible heterogeneity between trials.
  • To answer multiple questions in one systematic review.
  • "Integrate quantitative estimates of benefit and harm with more qualitative understanding from people's lives." (Harden A. 2010)

What is a Mixed Methods Review? Outline of Stages

Timeframe: 12-18+ months.  Same as a systematic review or longer.   *Varies beyond the type of review. Depends on many factors such as but not limited to: resources available, the quantity and quality of the literature, and the expertise or experience of reviewers" (Grant et al. 2009)

Question: Addresses 2 or more specific PICO criteria, "Mixed methods reviews should pose a question that specifically requires the inclusion of two or more syntheses that are grounded in different approaches".  A priori review protocol is recommended.

Examples of and clearly articulated PICO questions that may be posed by one mixed methods systematic review are:

1. What is the effectiveness of educational strategies associated with insulin pump therapy?

2. What is the appropriateness of educational strategies associated with insulin pump therapy”

Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more about Reviews of Complex Interventions

Sources and searches: Types of studies and their findings are mixed.  This requires a very broad search or multiple structured searches. "This should address each of the syntheses included in the review...[and] aims to find both published and unpublished studies."

See our Systematic Review Search Service for help conducting the search!

Selection: Based upon inclusion criteria.  

  • "The quantitative component of the review will consider any experimental study design including randomized controlled trials, non-randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental, before and after studies for inclusion."
  • "The qualitative component of the review will consider studies that focus on qualitative data including, but not limited to, designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research and feminist research. In the absence of research studies, other text such as opinion papers and reports will be considered. The textual component of the review will consider expert opinion, discussion papers, position papers and other text. • The economic component of the review will consider cost effectiveness, cost benefit, cost minimization, cost utility."

Appraisal: "This should address each of the syntheses included in the review." (Example: Quantitative, Qualitative, Textual or Economic papers)  The appropriate critical appraisal tool or method should be applied by study type or there should be one general tool used that will represent all study designs.  

Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) This link opens a PDF document.

Synthesis: Depends on findings and included studies, applying mixed synthesis methods (qualitative: thematic synthesis/meta-ethnography & quantitative: statistical meta-analysis).  “The results of each single method synthesis included in the mixed method review will be extracted in numerical, tabular or textual format."

(Source: Joanna Briggs Institute 2014)



JBI Reviewers Manual: Mixed Methods Reviews (2020)


Stern S, Lizarondo L, Carrier J, et al. Methodological Guidance for the Conduct of Mixed Methods Systematic Reviews

JBI evidence synthesis, 2020-10, Vol.18 (10), p.2108-2118.


Pluye, P., Hong, Q.N., & Vedel, I. (2016). Toolkit for mixed studies reviews (V3).

Department of Family Medicine, McGill University.


Sandelowski M, Leeman J, Knafl K, Crandell JL. Text-in-context: a method for extracting findings in mixed-methods mixed research synthesis studies. 2012; 69(6): 1428-37.


Harden A. This link opens to a PDF document. Mixed-Methods Systematic Reviews: Integrating quantitative and qualitative findingsNCDDR:FOCUS. 2010. 


Petticrew M, Rehfuess E, Noyes J, et al.  Synthesizing evidence on complex interventions: how meta-analytical, qualitative, and mixed method approaches can contribute.  J Clin Epid. 2013;66:1230-1243.