IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Systematic Review Synthesis Methods (online)

08 January 2024–22 March 2024, 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Participants engaged in the programme

Through this online distance-learning course, students will learn about a variety of ways of combining the results of studies in a systematic review.

Event Information

Open to







IOE Short Courses

Course overview

This online course will go through a variety of ways of combining the results of studies in a systematic review and cover subjects such as:

  • What is synthesis? Debates and approaches
  • Framework synthesis
  • Meta-ethnography
  • Statistical meta-analysis
  • Mixed-methods synthesis
  • Checking the robustness of the synthesis
  • Interpreting synthesis results

This course is run by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), part of IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society. The EPPI-Centre is recognised worldwide for its work developing methods for diverse kinds of systematic review and for the production of policy-relevant research.

Who the course is for

  • Students at master's level or above who are planning a career in research or policy.
  • Experienced researchers, policymakers and practitioners in public and voluntary services.

This is a methods course and there is no focus on a specific discipline. Those taking this course have a wide range of interests, including (but not limited to) health and social care, education, international development, social work, and criminology.

Course content

The course covers:

  • Understanding the different purposes and processes of a variety of different synthesis types.
  • Selecting an appropriate synthesis method for a given research question, taking into account data availability and the informational needs of the anticipated end user.
  • An introduction to conducting two methods of textual synthesis (framework synthesis and meta-ethnography), which are typically used for synthesising qualitative research.
  • An introduction to conducting statistical synthesis of quantitative data using statistical meta-analysis, including data extraction, calculating effect sizes, and heterogeneity.
  • Combining different types of study in the same synthesis (both statistical and narrative approaches) in a mixed methods synthesis.
  • Ensuring the robustness of the synthesis and communicating the findings.

Course structure and dates

There are nine teaching weeks. Students learn online using the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. All learning materials are provided for you through this site. A new topic is ‘released’ on Moodle each week for students to work through at their own pace, at any time of the day. There are no live lectures or seminars. 

Students can expect to spend approximately five hours per week working on this course. This includes optional activities that the students can undertake to check their understanding and consolidate their learning. There are no formal assessments or exams. 

You will also have access to optional ‘bonus’ topics on thematic synthesis, realist synthesis, and an introduction to advanced and emerging synthesis methods, including qualitative comparative analysis (QCA). You will be able to access the bonus materials on these optional topics at your leisure.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Have a critical understanding of the types of analytical approaches underlying different forms of research synthesis and be equipped to choose between them.
  • Know how to prepare data from primary studies for use in different types of synthesis.
  • Be able to apply different approaches to synthesis with basic data sets.
  • Be able to critically appraise and interpret cases where these approaches are used.

Entry requirements

You should have previously taken the UCL course 'Systematic Review Design and Planning' or an equivalent course, or have a working knowledge of systematic review methods.

You will need access, from the start of the course, to a copy of the SAGE 2017 textbook, 'An Introduction to Systematic Reviews - 2nd edition', edited by David Gough, Sandy Oliver and James Thomas.


You can request a certificate of attendance after completing the course. Eligibility for this is based on engagement with the course, though there is no formal assessment or ‘pass mark’.  

How to book

To book your place and pay the course fee, simply click on the "Book here" button below. 

Book here

If you are not able to pay by credit/debit card, an invoice will be raised for upfront payment. If this is your preferred method of payment, email ioe.shortcourses@ucl.ac.uk to enquiry how to book this course if you wish to pay by invoice.

About the Speakers

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves is an Associate Professor and Associate Director of UCL Institute of Education's EPPI-Centre. She specialises in methods for systematic reviews and meta-analysis and works across a range of discipline areas in the social sciences. She has nearly 20 years of evidence synthesis experience and has been teaching evidence synthesis methods for 15 years. 

Dr Preethy D’Souza

Dr Preethy D’Souza has been undertaking qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods systematic reviews at the EPPI-Centre since 2016. She has around 10 years of experience of conducting systematic reviews in social care, mental health, education, nursing, and public health. She teaches on numerous undergraduate and postgraduate modules.