Meta-ethnography focuses only on qualitative data and social science phenomenon (no quantitative evidence is included), uses original interpretations from qualitative studies as data, and synthesizes this data into new and unique insights about social phenomena.
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STRENGTHS + WEAKNESSES
Ideal for synthesizing information from multiple studies about people's experiences of a particular phenomenon
More contextual and comprehensive exploration of an issue
Clear origins in the interpretive paradigm and is consistent with the studies it synthesizes
Can add breadth and depth to existing systematic reviews
May help to mitigate duplication in qualitative research
Helps generate higher-level analysis, comprehensive theory, new models or frameworks, and new research questions beyond what can be found in the individual studies it synthesizes
Reporting quality of published meta-ethnographies is variable and sometimes poor
Challenges in detailing analytical processes are particularly apparent
In the process of interpreting interpretations, salient ideas or contextual nuances can be lost
Is a relatively new approach, debates and uncertainties remain around the best process, such as how to decide which studies to include or exclude, and the appropriate number of studies to include within a single review
Reporting guidelines for meta-ethnography are recent, and recommendations for good practices in design and implementation of meta-ethnographies are still in development
Limited to synthesizing qualitative evidence, other approaches may be more appropriate for researchers seeking to broadly map the literature on a topic
Does not offer immediate practical advice for medical educators, but rather frames new ways of considering the phenomenon at hand
ANNA MACLEOD, PhD
Anna MacLeod is Professor and Director of Education Research, as well as the Unit Head for Research in Medicine, in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. A social scientist, Anna was elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars in recognition of her ethnographic explorations of medical education. She has held uninterrupted national funding to support her work since taking up her faculty position in 2011
MARGARET BEARMAN, PhD
Margaret Bearman is a Professor within the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE), Deakin University, Australia. She is known for her work in assessment design, feedback in clinical environments and digital education.
VICTORIA LUONG, PhD(c)
Victoria Luong is a research associate and PhD student at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. While she has contributed to a number of projects related to the social and material aspects of medical education, her graduate work focuses on the role of personality in the workplace and the experience of medical trainees encountering struggle and underperformance.