The art and science of knowledge synthesis

J Clin Epidemiol. 2011 Jan;64(1):11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2009.11.007. Epub 2010 Mar 1.


Objectives: To review methods for completing knowledge synthesis.

Study design and setting: We discuss how to complete a broad range of knowledge syntheses. Our article is intended as an introductory guide.

Results: Many groups worldwide conduct knowledge syntheses, and some methods are applicable to most reviews. However, variations of these methods are apparent for different types of reviews, such as realist reviews and mixed-model reviews. Review validity is dependent on the validity of the included primary studies and the review process itself. Steps should be taken to avoid bias in the conduct of knowledge synthesis. Transparency in reporting will help readers assess review validity and applicability, increasing its utility.

Conclusion: Given the magnitude of the literature, the increasing demands on knowledge syntheses teams, and the diversity of approaches, continuing efforts will be important to increase the efficiency, validity, and applicability of systematic reviews. Future research should focus on increasing the uptake of knowledge synthesis, how best to update reviews, the comparability between different types of reviews (eg, rapid vs. comprehensive reviews), and how to prioritize knowledge synthesis topics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advisory Committees
  • Decision Making
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Knowledge
  • Review Literature as Topic