Short courses


Systematic Review Synthesis Methods (Online)

  • 5 hours independent study per week (approx.)
  • 9 weeks


On this nine-week online course you'll learn about different approaches for combining study results in a systematic review.

The course is aimed at experienced researchers. It will help you select and use the most appropriate synthesis method for your systematic review.

The course is about methods, it does not focus on a specific discipline or subject.

The main topics covered are:

  • types of synthesis: debates and methods
  • 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 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:

  • 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.

Teaching and structure

This course is taught over nine weeks, with a one-week gap during UCL reading week. 

You'll learn through the moodle VLE. All learning materials will be provided through this site. A new topic is released on this site each week for you to work through at your own pace. There are no live lectures or seminars.

You should plan to spend approximately five hours per week studying. This includes optional activities you can use to check your own learning. There are no formal assessments or exams. 

Who this course is for

This course is suitable 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

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


You'll need to have a working knowledge of systematic review methods. This could be from taking the UCL course Systematic Review Design and Planning or an equivalent course. 

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 of attendance on completion of the course.

Eligibility for this is based on engagement with the course, though there is no formal asessment or pass mark. 

Learning outcomes

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

  • understand the types of analytical approaches underlying different forms of research synthesis, and be equipped to choose between them
  • prepare data from primary studies for use in different types of synthesis
  • apply different approaches to synthesis with basic data sets
  • critically appraise and interpret cases where these approaches are used.

How to book

When booking, you can choose to pay by credit/debit card (which is strongly advised) or request an invoice.

If you wish to pay by invoice email ioe.shortcourses@ucl.ac.uk for more details. 

Course team

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves

Alison 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

Preethyhas 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. 

Course information last modified: 5 Dec 2023, 17:10