Rigorous and relevant systematic reviews: Lessons learned from mixed-methods approaches in international development 

Target audience:
This special session will be open to all Summit participants. In particular, researchers, commissioners of systematic reviews and policy or programme decision makers working on topics of relevance to low- and middle-income countries will benefit from attending. It is desirable for participants to have intermediate knowledge of systematic review methodologies to facilitate a more targeted and efficient interaction with the audience.

Systematic reviews in international development can incorporate different methods to answer relevant questions for policy makers. Drawing on presentations from three rigorous and relevant reviews, the special session has two aims. The first is to foster understanding and dialogue among researchers and commissioners of the benefits and challenges of conducting rigorous mixed-methods reviews. Secondly, the session will discuss lessons learned in question setting, user engagement, process management, methods and presenting policy findings.

3ie estimates there are now more than 600 ongoing or completed systematic reviews of international development interventions. Many of these reviews have been commissioned by policy organisations who need findings that are relevant for decision making. This has led to more interest in conducting mixed-methods reviews by policy makers, practitioners and researchers. The nature of such reviews allows evidence not just on what works and for whom, but how and why. Nevertheless, there are both practical and methodological challenges in ensuring relevant reviews are of high quality and timely.

The session will feature examples of three mixed methods - Campbell International Development Coordinating Group (IDCG) systematic reviews on agricultural certification, women’s employment and sanitation and hygiene programmes. Presenters will share their experiences in conducting mixed-methods reviews, focusing on lessons learnt for ensuring reviews were both rigorous and relevant. The second part of the panel discussion focuses on audience participation in the discussion, facilitated by IDCG editorial staff.

The session will include short presentations and facilitated discussion with all participants:
We propose the following topics for discussion:

  • Systematic scoping for rigorous and relevant systematic reviews. 
  • User engagement for relevant systematic reviews. 
  • Quality appraisal for incorporating relevant qualitative evidence. 
  • Review team coordination for integrating quantitative and qualitative evidence .
  • Making sense of different causal chains using mixed-methods evidence. 
  • Translating findings into quantities that are understood by policy makers.


Target audience: 

Researchers, commissioners of systematic reviews and policy or programme decision-makers working on topics of relevance to low and middle income countries will benefit from attending.

Type of session: 

The session will take the form of several short oral presentations, an interactive exercise and a discussion session. Oral presentations will be short (5-10 minute) introductions of a topic and will be followed by a breakout session with group discussions with all attendees taking part. The group discussions will focus on key issues, such as question setting, user engagement, process management, policy findings and dissemination approaches.

Other contributors:

Tsoli S1, de Buck E1, de Buck T1, Oya C1, Snilstveit B1
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Wednesday 13 September 2017 - 11:00 to 12:30