There is a proliferation of qualitative research related to the human dimensions of conservation and environment. Rigorous synthesis of such studies can help develop understanding and inform decision-making. Combining findings from studies in different contexts can help address questions of, for example, implementation of interventions, or the lived experience of those affected by environmental phenomena or interventions.
Researchers in environmental management have adapted methodology for systematic reviews of quantitative research so as to address questions about the magnitude of intervention effects or the impacts of human activities or exposure. However, guidance for the synthesis of qualitative evidence in this field does not yet exist. The objective of this article is to present a brief overview of different methods for the synthesis of qualitative research, and to explore why and how reviewers might select a particular method.
The paper discusses synthesis methods developed in other fields but applicable to environmental management and policy. These methods include thematic synthesis, framework synthesis, realist synthesis, critical interpretive synthesis and meta-ethnography. It briefly describes each of these methods, gives recommendations to guide selection, and provides suggestions for further reading.