"Distorted into clarity": a methodological case study illustrating the paradox of systematic review.


Journal Article (Review)

Systematic review is typically viewed in the health sciences as the most objective--that is, rigorous, transparent, and reproducible--method for summarizing the results of research. Yet, recent scholarship has shown systematic review to involve feats of interpretation producing less certain, albeit valuable, results. We found this to be the case when we tried to overcome the resistance to synthesis of a set of qualitative and quantitative findings on stigma in HIV-positive women. These findings were difficult to combine largely because of fuzzy conceptualizations of stigma and the volume of unique quantitative findings. Our encounter with findings resistant to synthesis heightened our awareness of the extent to which all systematic reviews are accomplished by practices that paradoxically "distort [research findings] into clarity."

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sandelowski, M; Voils, CI; Barroso, J; Lee, E-J

Published Date

  • October 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 31 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 454 - 465

PubMed ID

  • 18324678

Pubmed Central ID

  • 18324678

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-240X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/nur.20278


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States