Short courses


Systematic Review Synthesis Methods (Online)

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


On this 10-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:

  • selecting an appropriate synthesis method
  • 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
  • combining different types of study in the same synthesis (both statistical and narrative approaches)
  • ensuring quality of the synthesis and communicating the findings

Teaching and structure

This course will run for 10 weeks.

You should plan to spend approximately 5 hours per week studying.

Course materials will usually be made available each Tuesday, with homework activities usually due on the following Monday.

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 on completion of the course.

The course activities form part of a more complete Master's-level module. Please contact the administrator if you would like further detail about studying for credit at Master’s-level.

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 choose between them
  • prepare data from primary studies for use in different types of synthesis
  • use aggregative, configurative and mixed methods approaches to synthesis
  • 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.

When requesting an invoice, you'll need:

  • a purchase order number from your finance department at your school or college
  • the name of the person authorising the booking

Course team

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves

Dr Alison O'Mara-Eves

Alison is an Associate Director of the EPPI-Centre and specialises in methods for systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Before joining the EPPI-Centre, Alison worked for a research consultancy conducting evidence reviews for policy and practice, and at the Oxford University Department of Education conducting quantitative research.

Dr Mark Newman

Dr Mark Newman

Mark is a senior researcher in the EPPI-Centre, Programme Leader for the MA Clinical Education, and a Doctoral supervisor. His background includes health, social sciences and education. He has worked in the NHS and higher education.

Professor James Thomas

Professor James Thomas

James is Director of the EPPI-Centre's Reviews Facility for the Department of Health, England, which undertakes systematic reviews across a range of policy areas to support the department. He specialises in developing methods for research synthesis, in particular for qualitative and mixed methods reviews and in using emerging information technologies such as text mining in research.

Course information last modified: 7 Jan 2022, 09:18