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Open Access Open Badges Research article

A worked example of "best fit" framework synthesis: A systematic review of views concerning the taking of some potential chemopreventive agents

Christopher Carroll*, Andrew Booth and Katy Cooper

Author Affiliations

Health Economics and Decision Science (HEDS), School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-29

Published: 16 March 2011



A variety of different approaches to the synthesis of qualitative data are advocated in the literature. The aim of this paper is to describe the application of a pragmatic method of qualitative evidence synthesis and the lessons learned from adopting this "best fit" framework synthesis approach.


An evaluation of framework synthesis as an approach to the qualitative systematic review of evidence exploring the views of adults to the taking of potential agents within the context of the primary prevention of colorectal cancer.


Twenty papers from North America, Australia, the UK and Europe met the criteria for inclusion. Fourteen themes were identified a priori from a related, existing conceptual model identified in the literature, which were then used to code the extracted data. Further analysis resulted in the generation of a more sophisticated model with additional themes. The synthesis required a combination of secondary framework and thematic analysis approaches and was conducted within a health technology assessment timeframe.


The novel and pragmatic "best fit" approach to framework synthesis developed and described here was found to be fit for purpose. Future research should seek to test further this approach to qualitative data synthesis.