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Introducing theory into systematic reviews: a discussion workshop

Date and Location




Friday 20 September 2013 - 13:30 - 15:00
Contact persons and facilitators

Contact person

Geoff Wong


Margaret Cargo
Janet Harris
Justin Jagosh
Mark Pearson
Joanne Greenhalgh
Target audience

Target audience

This workshop is suitable for researchers interested in learning about how theory can help in systematic reviews (e.g. effectiveness and implementation). No preparation or prior experience required.

Is your workshop restricted to a specific audience or open to all Colloquium participants?


Level of knowledge required

Type of workshop

Type of workshop

Abstract text


Objectives, for systematic reviews to discuss: -What is theory -Why and how theory may help -Different ways theory can be incorporated -Challenges in using theory Description: Evidence synthesis of many healthcare and public health interventions is challenging as they are ‘complex’-consisting of long implementation chains, multiple components interacting independently, inter-dependently and/or non-linearly with emergent effects and context dependent outcomes. Increasingly, there are calls for using theory in systematic reviews as one approach to understanding how complex interventions work to achieve outcomes. However, there is confusion as to what is meant by ‘theory’, why it is needed in the first place and how it can be incorporated. Even when theory is incorporated, methodological challenges arise. In this workshop we will discuss the different conceptualisations of theory, why and how theory can assist reviews and the methodological challenges of doing so. Structured workshop plan: -Introductions and objectives: 5 minutes presentation -What is theory? 10 plus 10 minutes for questions -Why use theory? 10 plus 10 minutes for questions -Applying theory in different systematic review types: Examples from completed reviews where theory has been used (20 minutes, small facilitated groups). -Feedback to larger group: 20 minutes -Summary and closing: 5 minutes