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

  • 10 hours per week (approx.)
  • 10 weeks


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

This is an online course which runs over 10 weeks. You can also attend a face-to-face version of this course.

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 is an online course and you'll study entirely at a distance. You'll need to spend at least 10 hours a week on a variety of study activities.

You'll study individually and with other students, using the course virtual learning environment (VLE).

Every week, you'll cover a new course ‘unit’ where you'll carry out a set of learning activities. You can carry out these activities at your own pace and at times of your own choosing as long as you complete the specified tasks by the deadlines set. 

Typical activities include:

  • reading a journal article or book chapter and identifying key themes
  • using software to practice meta-analysis and key stages in the synthesis of ‘qualitative’ research
  • drafting short summaries on a topic, sometimes on your own, sometimes with fellow students
  • posting comments and observations on your own reading and learning and providing feedback to other students

The course is also available as a face-to-face course. Please ensure you sign up for the correct version 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: 29 Nov 2018, 15:18