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Qualitative meta-synthesis: a question of dialoguing with texts

Authors


Lela Zimmer,
University of Northern British Columbia,
3333 University Way,
Prince George,
British Columbia V2N 4Z9,
Canada.
E-mail zimmerl@unbc.ca

Abstract

Aims.  This paper discusses whether useful synthesis of research reports across different qualitative methodologies is possible, and whether qualitative meta-synthesis violates the tenets of the interpretive paradigm.

Background.  Qualitative meta-synthesis is a recent development in qualitative inquiry that offers a means of enhancing the contribution of qualitative findings to the development of more formalized knowledge. However, there are a number of unanswered questions and areas that require debate.

Discussion.  A brief overview of qualitative meta-synthesis as a method of inquiry is presented. The assumptions of phenomenology, ethnography and grounded theory are explored for their amenability to meta-synthesis and the possibility of coherent synthesis of findings across these methodologies. In addition, a summary of major philosophical commitments common to the interpretive paradigm is presented. Qualitative meta-synthesis as a methodology is then explored for its fit within this paradigm. An argument is made, with some caveats, for synthesis across qualitative methodologies. Gadamer's concepts of the hermeneutic circle, the fusion of horizons, and dialogue with the text are explored for the insight they provide into the place of qualitative meta-synthesis in inquiry.

Conclusion.  It is important for researchers to bring hermeneutic skill to the process of meta-synthesis in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the various philosophical assumptions in which qualitative approaches are based. The particular challenge of combining analysis and interpretation from studies with markedly different approaches and intentions may prompt synthesists to create new and innovative approaches to the presentation of meta-synthesis.

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