Background: Proponents of ‘open data’ have identified numerous benefits of this approach: increasing outputs of research, improving transparency, promoting equal access, stimulating innovation, and improving sustainability of data. Many journals now require open access to datasets, and the number of data repositories is quickly growing. Nevertheless, to date qualitative syntheses have not explored the possibility of original dataset as sources.
Objectives: To determine the feasibility and potential benefit of a qualitative synthesis from primary data.
Methods: A comparative analysis was undertaken of two approach to qualitative synthesis: 1) from published findings, and, 2) from primary data. Data for both methods were derived from the four Community Level Interventions for Pre-eclampsia (CLIP) feasibility studies. Both syntheses followed thematic synthesis methods.
Results: Findings revealed advantages and drawbacks of methods to be considered (Figure 1). Advantages of synthesis using primary sources include: access to comprehensive data, the classification of participants/groups is straightforward for sub-group analyses as the data are not restricted by the analyst’s interpretation and presentation of the findings. New insight is possible as analysts do not rely on previous interpretation of data, increasing the likelihood of novel findings. In addition, translation of themes across methodologies can be more easily achieved. Still there are advantages of the classic synthesis of publications. Relevant findings/data for extraction and synthesis is straightforward and can be replicated by other researchers with similar results. The greatest advantage of this method is its comparable speed, as a result of concise data for analysis.
Conclusions: Both approaches have inherent advantages and disadvantages. The synthesis of primary data is feasible and may be justified for the purpose of deeper analysis if resources permit. This shift to open access databases may facilitate the synthesis of qualitative data in the future.