Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Clinical Trials as Topic; Humans; *Meta-Analysis as Topic; Outcome Assessment (Health Care); Patient Selection; *Review Literature as Topic


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


BACKGROUND: Systematic reviews have developed into a powerful method for summarising and synthesising evidence. The rise in systematic reviews creates a methodological opportunity and associated challenges and this is seen in the development of overviews, or reviews of systematic reviews. One of these challenges is how to summarise evidence from systematic reviews of complex interventions for inclusion in an overview. Interventions for communicating with and involving consumers in their care are frequently complex. In this article we outline a method for preparing data integration tables to enable review-level synthesis of the evidence on interventions for communication and participation in health.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Systematic reviews published by the Cochrane Consumers and Communication Review Group were utilised as the basis from which to develop linked steps for data extraction, evidence assessment and synthesis. The resulting output is called a data integration table. Four steps were undertaken in designing the data integration tables: first, relevant information for a comprehensive picture of the characteristics of the review was identified from each review, extracted and summarised. Second, results for the outcomes of the review were assessed and translated to standardised evidence statements. Third, outcomes and evidence statements were mapped into an outcome taxonomy that we developed, using language specific to the field of interventions for communication and participation. Fourth, the implications of the review were assessed after the mapping step clarified the level of evidence available for each intervention.

CONCLUSION: The data integration tables represent building blocks for constructing overviews of review-level evidence and for the conduct of meta-synthesis. Individually, each table aims to improve the consistency of reporting on the features and effects of interventions for communication and participation; provides a broad assessment of the strength of evidence derived from different methods of analysis; indicates a degree of certainty with results; and reports outcomes and gaps in the evidence in a consistent and coherent way. In addition, individual tables can serve as a valuable tool for accurate dissemination of large amounts of complex information on communication and participation to professionals as well as to members of the public.

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Citation: BMC Med Res Methodol. 2009 Mar 4;9:16. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed


Medical student Caroline Kaufman participated in this study as part of the Senior Scholars research program.



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