"Meta Interpretation": A Method for the Interpretive Synthesis of Qualitative Research

Mike Weed


Recognition of the need for good research synthesis dates back almost half a century (c.f .WRIGHT MILLS, 1959), although it is far more recently that specific methods of synthesis have been developed. NOBLIT and HARE (1988) argue that such methods have emerged because of the failings, in the eyes of both positivists and interpretivists, of traditional literature reviews which, while giving an overview of the field, are often descriptive and are rarely able to make sense of what the collection of studies reviewed has to say. The purpose of this paper is to propose a method for meta-interpretation which focuses on the interpretive synthesis of qualitative research, thus maintaining an interpretive epistemology that is congruent with the majority of primary qualitative research. The paper reviews and evaluates eight research methods or approaches that include some form of synthesis (literature review, systematic review, meta-analysis, meta-ethnography, grounded theory, cross-case comparison, secondary analysis of primary data, and interpretive phenomenological analysis). The key features of each approach are drawn out, and their implications for the construction of the meta-interpretation approach are discussed. The paper then outlines a potential procedure for meta-interpretation before concluding with some comments on the functions of synthesis in general and meta-interpretation in particular.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501375


synthesis; interpretive; qualitative; meta-interpretation; method

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-6.1.508

Copyright (c) 2005 Mike Weed

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