Should we exclude inadequately reported studies from qualitative systematic reviews? An evaluation of sensitivity analyses in two case study reviews

Qual Health Res. 2012 Oct;22(10):1425-34. doi: 10.1177/1049732312452937. Epub 2012 Aug 3.


The role of critical appraisal of qualitative studies in systematic reviews remains an ongoing cause for debate. Key to such a debate is whether quality assessment can or should be used to exclude studies. In our study, we extended the use of existing criteria to assess the quality of reporting of studies included in two qualitative systematic reviews. We then excluded studies deemed to be inadequately reported from the subsequent analysis. We tested the impact of these exclusions on the overall findings of the synthesis and its depth or thickness. Exclusion of so-called inadequately reported studies had no meaningful effect on the synthesis. There was a correlation between quality of reporting of a study and its values as a source for the final synthesis. We propose that there is a possible case for excluding inadequately reported studies from qualitative evidence synthesis.

MeSH terms

  • Qualitative Research*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity*