Complex reviews 1: Issues and challenges in developing review questions for complex interventions

Topic category Other methods for preparing systematic reviews
Date and Location
Monday 1 October 2012 - 13:30 - 15:00
Methods Group
Methods Group: 
Qualitative Research Methods Group
Contact persons and facilitators
Contact person Affiliation Country
Janet Harris (Contact this person) University of Sheffield United Kingdom
Margaret Cargo (Contact this person) University of South Australia Australia
Facilitator Affiliation Country
Andrew Booth Qualitative Methods Group United Kingdom
Jane Noyes Cochrane Qualitative Research Methods Group United Kingdom
Other contributors
First nameLast nameAffiliation and Country
First name: 
Last name: 
Affiliation and Country: 
EPPI-Centre, Institute of Education, UK
First name: 
Last name: 
Affiliation and Country: 
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
Target audience
Target audience: 
Reivew authors and researchers with some knowledge of complex interventions
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
To identify issues and potential solutions in formulating review questions for complex interventions.

Question formulation is a vital process, and when formulated carefully the question should dictate the most appropriate methods, processes and types of evidence to address it. Producing a well-formulated review question represents a decision making process that aims to define the scope, participants and interventions in a way that enables comparison. In the case of complex interventions, however, the different elements in the intervention can increase heterogeneity in ways that are difficult to predict at the question formulation stage. Further heterogeneity can occur due to unreported variations in implementation and contextual factors. Given these challenges, what are useful approaches to formulating review questions for complex interventions?

This workshop will present a brief overview of the challenges of question formulation, followed by specific examples relating to the factors that influence question development for complex intervention reviews. Potential influencing factors include the background knowledge of the review team; review and service users' perspectives; existing programme theory; heterogeneity in populations; and the organisation of different propositional strands. Possible solutions and the implications of various decisions will be considered via group discussion.