Pragmatism as the philosophical foundation for the Joanna Briggs meta-aggregative approach to qualitative evidence synthesis

J Adv Nurs. 2011 Jul;67(7):1632-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05636.x. Epub 2011 Apr 6.


Aim: This paper presents a discussion of the role of the philosophy of pragmatism in the Joanna Briggs meta-aggregative approach to qualitative evidence synthesis.

Background: An increasing number of qualitative evidence syntheses are being published in journals, many of them influenced by an interpretive or a critical-realist perspective. One approach to qualitative evidence synthesis is meta-aggregation. Originally designed to model the transparency, auditability and reliability of the established process for effectiveness reviews, meta-aggregation makes a case for the production of synthesized statements that refer to 'lines of action' informing decision-making at the clinical or policy level.

Data sources: This paper draws from the literature written on the philosophy of pragmatism (1877-2008) and from the user guidance on meta-aggregation developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute between 2004 and 2007.

Discussion: Meta-aggregation as a methodology is founded on the principles and assumptions of the philosophical traditions of pragmatism. Meta-aggregation can only reach its full potential if the 'lines of action' suggested will somehow be supported by measures of effectiveness, as demonstrated in mixed method research.

Implications for nursing: The 'lines of action' presented as the result of a meta-aggregative synthesis are directive in nature and inform healthcare practitioners at the point of practical decision-making.

Conclusion: The real verification of the 'lines of action' suggested in a meta-aggregation consists of the satisfactorily ending consequences, mental or physical, which the synthesized statements that summarize the basic ideas emerging from the studies are able to generate in end users.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods
  • Nursing Theory
  • Philosophy*
  • Policy
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Review Literature as Topic