Uncommon Methodologies for Conducting Literature Reviews: Part 1—A Policy Analysis of How Maternal Health Concepts Have Been Framed in Policy Documents of a Low-Income Country


Students and experienced researchers know that quantitative systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the most common approach for conducting literature reviews. However, this type of review can only answer certain research questions, specifically questions on intervention efficacy, safety, and effectiveness. On the contrary, there is a myriad of uncommon, alternative methodologies for conducting literature reviews in health services research, including concept analyses, scoping reviews, and qualitative meta-syntheses. These types of reviews are also systematic in nature but differ in the included data and analytic procedures. In this case study, we discuss our experiences conducting a policy analysis of how maternal health concepts have been framed in policy documents in a low-income country. We describe the rationales for employing quantitative and qualitative content analyses in our study as well as how they can be used in complementary roles to generate more holistic evidence. We also discuss the common misconception that database searches are the gold standard for all research questions and literature review methodologies. As this case study will demonstrate, in some circumstances database searches may not be a useful source of data. We also describe how we managed significant limitations in our review with regard to the reliability, accuracy, and comprehensiveness of data. A corollary of this discussion is to convey its limitations for readers to appraise how this may affect the usefulness of the study’s findings for their context. Finally, we highlight the importance of being cognizant about the impact of research on Pakistan, especially on sensitive topics where that data may be inextricable from political agendas. This case study provides an example for students and experienced researchers to broaden their repertoire of literature review methodologies.

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