Beyond synthesis: augmenting systematic review procedures with practical principles to optimise impact and uptake in educational policy and practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


External organisations

  • University of Warwick
  • University of Essex
  • Bournemouth University


Whilst systematic reviews, meta-analyses and other forms of synthesis are considered amongst the most valuable forms of research evidence, their limited impact on educational policy and practice has been criticised. In this article, we analyse why systematic reviews do not benefit users of evidence more consistently and suggest how review teams can optimise the impact of their work. We introduce the Beyond Synthesis Impact Chain (BSIC), an integrated framework of practical strategies for enhancing the impact of systematic reviews. Using examples from health professions education, we propose that review teams can optimise the impact of their work by employing strategies that (1) focus on practical problems and mindful planning in collaboration with users; (2) ensure reviews are relevant and syntheses reflexively account for users’ needs; and (3) couch reports in terms that resonate with users’ needs and increase access through targeted and strategic dissemination. We argue that combining practical principles with robust and transparent procedures can purposefully account for impact, and foster the uptake of review evidence in educational policy and practice. For systematic review teams, this paper offers strategies for enhancing the practical utility and potential impact of systematic reviews and other forms of synthesis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-344
JournalInternational Journal of Research and Method in Education
Issue number3
Early online date12 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2016