Background: Qualitative evidence syntheses (QES) use systematic methods to seek out and make sense of qualitative research findings, including people’s accounts of their views and experiences. They can help us understand health conditions, health behaviours and interventions from the perspectives of people such as patients and carers. The concepts used in peoples’ accounts of their lives, however, are hugely varied and not always well defined. The same is true for the concepts that are presented as findings in qualitative studies. QES therefore requires reviewers to interpret primary research studies. This interpretation, it is argued, is potentially influenced by reviewers’ own experiences and views, so researcher backgrounds can potentially influence the shape and content of QES findings. Qualitative researchers often aim to explore the perspectives that they bring to their work and consider the influence their perspectives might have on their research - a process that is termed ‘reflexivity’ - but accounts of reflexivity in systematic reviews are scarce.
Objectives: To explore the potential value and feasibility of reflexive practice within a mixed-method systematic review that also involves consultations with patient groups and clinicians.
Methods: Members of our review team considered the arguments for reflexivity in its various forms. Using research diaries and team meetings we captured our ideas about the perspectives that were brought to several stages in our review, including our consultations with stakeholders. We reflected on the time and other resources required to make these reflexivity discussions and activities feasible and useful.
Results and Conclusions: We present an overview of the main points in our review at which reflexivity was found to be useful and/or a challenge and the possible value of reflexivity for other review teams.