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Enhanced research reporting method to improve patient care

Patients could benefit from improved care and outcomes thanks to new research reporting guidance developed from a study that Bangor University researchers contributed to.

Experts have developed an approach that enables better reporting of findings from the combination of qualitative studies such as information garnered from patient interviews and focus groups.

The study has led to the creation of the first-ever tailored reporting guidance for the methodology, known as meta-ethnography. It will give researchers and healthcare bosses greater confidence in the findings of qualitative studies and, ultimately, aid the improvement of patient care and services.

Professor Jane Noyes, of the School of Health Sciences at Bangor University contributed to the study published in five journals. She said:

“This guidance is designed to help researchers better reflect the views and experiences of patients, carers and other key stakeholders in their synthesis of qualitative studies. Bringing together the views and experiences of these people can help decision-makers to make more informed decisions. Patients could benefit from improved care and outcomes thanks to the new research reporting guidance.”

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and involves a number of partners, including the Universities of Bangor, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Napier and Stirling.

Meta-ethnography – developed by sociologists George W Noblit and R Dwight Hare in 1988 – involves systematically comparing conceptual data from primary qualitative studies to identify and develop new overarching concepts, theories and models. It enables researchers to combine the findings of qualitative studies, rather than concentrating on the individual cases.

The quality of the reporting of meta-ethnographies is often poor – meaning patient groups and NHS managers often lack trust in the findings and, ultimately, do not use them to improve their decisions, services and patient care. However, the research team – working closely with Professor Noblit, of the University of North Carolina – have, for the first time, provided bespoke guidance on this approach to improve reporting of data collection and analysis.

Before putting together the guidance, the team reviewed existing literature, consulted academic experts, carried out consensus studies within the research community and with members of the public, and interviewed professionals working in non-academic settings.

The new guidance has 19 specific reporting criteria, supported by detailed explanatory notes. It includes recommendations on all aspects of meta-ethnography conduct and reporting, from selecting studies to analysing data.

The guidance will be free to use and is aimed predominantly at researchers, journal editors, and academics who review research articles to guide how meta-ethnographies should be reported. It will also be used by researchers and students looking to understand how to conduct a meta-ethnography.

The study, Improving reporting of Meta-Ethnography: The eMERGe Reporting Guidance, is published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing; BMC Medical Research Methodology; Review of Education; Psycho-oncology; and PLOS ONE.

Find out more about the eMERGe project.

Publication date: 17 January 2019