Evidence Synthesis in the Social Sciences

This guide will give you an overview of evidence synthesis methodology and discuss relevant resources and tools.

Things to consider before deciding to do an evidence synthesis project

Before one begins an evidence synthesis project, there are a number of things to consider:

  • Firstly, different types of evidence synthesis may be more or less suited to different research questions. You'll need to choose the type of review that will best answer your particular question. (This will likely involve some initial literature searching to determine the state of research in your field and any other evidence synthesis recently done in your areas.)
  • Evidence synthesis methodology takes time. Generally a review is going to take at least a year, and quite possibly longer. 
  • Best practice for evidence synthesis also involves at least two reviewers.
  • You will also want to consider if you're going to include non-English language articles and/or grey literature in your review, and this might add additional time considerations and challenges to your work.
  • Other considerations might also include: the need to update searches if a project takes a significant amount of time; that the goals of transparency and reproducibility require very detailed records of your searches, results, and methods; and that for further transparency a risk of bias assessment is often done on each included study in your review.  

To help your research run smoothly, it is probably a good idea to think through a lot of these considerations at the beginning. Hopefully this guide will help!

Common types of evidence synthesis

Review type decision tree

decision tree for types of systematic review

Decision tree from Cornell University Library.

Business & Economics Librarian

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Ash Faulkner
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