Lost in reviews: Looking for the involvement of stakeholders, patients, public and other non-researcher contributors in realist reviews

Ruth Abrams*, Sophie Park, Geoff Wong, Juhi Rastogi, Anne-Marie Boylan, Stephanie Tierney, Mila Petrova, Shoba Dawson, Nia Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)


The involvement of non‐researcher contributors (e.g. stakeholders, patients and the public, decision and policy makers, experts, lay contributors) has taken a variety of forms within evidence syntheses. Realist reviews are a form of evidence synthesis that involves non‐researcher contributors yet this practice has received little attention. In particular, the role of patient and public involvement (PPI) has not been clearly documented. This review of reviews describes the ways in which contributor involvement, including PPI, is documented within healthcare realist reviews published over the last five years.

448 papers published between 2014‐2019 were screened, yielding 71 full text papers included in this review. Statements about contributor involvement were synthesised across each review using framework analysis. Three themes are described in this article including: nomenclature, nature of involvement and reporting impact.

Papers indicate that contributor involvement in realist reviews refers to stakeholders, experts or advisory groups (i.e. professionals, clinicians or academics). Patients and the public are occasionally subsumed into these groups and in doing so, the nature and impact of their involvement becomes challenging to identify and at times, is lost completely. Our review findings indicate a need for the realist review community to develop guidance to support researchers in their future collaboration with contributors, including patients and the public.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalResearch Synthesis Methods
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Sep 2020

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