Developing meta-ethnography reporting guidelines and standards for research


The eMERGe project aimed to create evidence-based meta-ethnography reporting guidance, by answering the following research questions:

  1. What are the existing recommendations and guidance for conducting and reporting each process in a meta-ethnography, and why?
  2. What good practice principles can we identify in meta-ethnography conduct and reporting to inform recommendations and guidance?
  3. From the good practice principles, what standards can we develop in meta-ethnography conduct and reporting to inform recommendations and guidance?
  4. What is the consensus of experts and other stakeholders on key standards and domains for reporting meta-ethnography in an abstract and main report/publication?


Meta-ethnography is a complex and commonly used method of qualitative evidence synthesis. Previous research has identified that the quality of reporting of published meta-ethnographies is often poor and this has limited the utility of meta-ethnography findings to influence policy and practice. The eMERGe reporting guidance has been developed following a thorough and recommended approach.

The eMERGe project has produced a guidance table, detailed explanatory notes, and training material for reporting meta-ethnographies. The guidance was developed with the help and support of an international Project Advisory Group of key stakeholders - including one of the founders of meta-ethnography, Prof George Noblit – who was involved in all aspects of the project.


The project team has developed detailed explanatory notes and training materials to support the use of the reporting guidelines.  Meta-ethnography is an evolving qualitative evidence synthesis methodology with huge potential to contribute evidence for policy and practice. The impact of this guidance should be to improve the quality and completeness of meta-ethnography reporting, to enable stakeholders to assess the credibility of meta-ethnography findings, and to increase the usability of meta-ethnography findings to influence policy and practice.

Other dissemination activity:

A range of online training material has been created to support the project output, hosted on the project website www.emergeproject.org. This material includes a glossary of terms, exemplars for each of the reporting criteria in the guidance table, and four films featuring members of the project team explaining meta-ethnography and how to use the guidance.

The project team held a webinar in May 2017 ‘Introducing the New Meta-ethnography Reporting Guidance – what it is and how to use it’. This one hour, free, webinar gave an overview of why the reporting guidance is needed, what format the guidance takes, and how to use the guidance, and gave attendees to opportunity to ask questions. Fifty people from around the world attended the webinar. Attendees included PhD students and academics.

Principal Investigator: Dr Emma France

NMAHP Research Unit Collaborators: Dr Edward Duncan, Professor Margaret Maxwell, Dr Margaret Cunningham, Dr Isabelle Uny

External Collaborators: Jepson R - University of Edinburgh, Noyes J - Bangor University, Ring N - University of Stirling, Turley R - Cardiff University.

Funder: NIHR


France, E. F., Ring, N., Noyes, J., Maxwell, M., Jepson, R., Duncan, E., Turley, R., Jones, D., & Uny, I. (2015). Protocol-developing meta-ethnography reporting guidelines (eMERGe). BMC medical research methodology15(1), 103.