Systematic Reviews: Meta-Analysis, Qualitative Synthesis and Mixed Methods Synthesis

  • 3 hours in class + 7 hours independent study per week (approx.)
  • 10 weeks


This short course is designed for experienced researchers who want to gain an advanced working knowledge of synthesis methods for systematic reviews.

This is a face-to-face course which runs over 10 weeks. You can also take this course online.

You'll learn the critical and technical skills essential for conducting a range of research synthesis methods, including:

  • statistical meta-analysis
  • thematic synthesis
  • realist synthesis
  • mixed methods synthesis

The breadth and depth of methods covered will enable you to select and apply the most appropriate methods for your own research questions.

You'll also learn to check synthesis findings for their robustness, interpret or translate the findings for different audiences, and critically appraise the findings of a synthesis.

You'll study alongside researchers from a diverse range of public policy sectors and disciplines.

You'll receive free access to the systematic review software, EPPI-Reviewer, for the duration of the course.

This course is run by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), part of UCL Institute of Education (IOE). The EPPI-Centre is recognised world-wide for its work developing methods for diverse kinds of systematic reviews to answer a broad range of policy and practice relevant review questions.

Course content

This course covers:

  • statistical methods for synthesis in systematic reviews, including data extraction and calculating effect sizes, heterogeneity, and statistical model choice
  • the synthesis of ‘qualitative’ research, including data extraction, the ‘translation’ of concepts, and ‘line of argument’ synthesis
  • the role and methods of quality assessment in the synthesis process
  • combining different types of study in the same synthesis (both statistical and narrative approaches)
  • the role that different methods of synthesis can play

Teaching and structure

This course will run for 10 weeks.

Each week, you'll need to attend a one-hour lecture and two-hour seminar at UCL.

You'll also need to complete readings and activities in your own time. You should expect to spend at least 7 hours a week on these self-directed activities.

You can also take this course online. Please ensure you sign up for the correct version of the course when applying.

Who this course is for

This course is for experienced researchers who want to develop highly sought-after skills and knowledge.

It's relevant for those in academia, government and the voluntary sector.

Those taking this course have a wide range of interests have a wide range of interests, including health and social care, social work, criminology and education.


You should have previously taken the UCL IOE course Systematic Review Design and Planning or an equivalent course, or have a working knowledge of research synthesis.

You'll need access, from the start of the course, to a copy of the SAGE 2017 textbook, 'An introduction to systematic reviews - 2nd edition' by David Gough, Sandy Oliver and James Thomas.


You can request a certificate on completion of the course.

This course is also a module on the MSc Systematic Reviews for Social Policy and Practice. Only students enrolled on a UCL Master’s program can receive course credit. Please contact the administrator for information on taking this course for Master’s level credit.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you'll be able to:

  • identify the different purposes, types of data, and analytical approaches underlying different forms of research synthesis in systematic reviews
  • prepare data from primary studies for use in different types of synthesis
  • determine the role/s that quality appraisals of primary studies can play in the research synthesis
  • critically appraise and interpret syntheses and their findings

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Course team

Alison O’Mara-Eves

Alison is an Associate Professor at the EPPI-Centre, UCL Institute of Education, London. She has nearly 15 years of experience in conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses across a range of policy and practice areas in different disciplines, mostly related to public health and education. She specialises in methods for research synthesis, with a particular interest in quantitative analysis including statistical meta-analysis.

Student review

"A highly relevant course for anyone with a passion for research synthesis. The inclusion of different views from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives made for an engaging and innovative learning experience." [Laurenz Langer, University of Johannesburg]

"The training was an invaluable experience that will certainly enrich both my research and my teaching." [Andrea MacLeod, Université Laval, Canada]

Course information last modified: 12 Dec 2018, 12:41