Systematic searching for theory to inform systematic reviews: is it feasible? Is it desirable?

TitleSystematic searching for theory to inform systematic reviews: is it feasible? Is it desirable?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBooth A, Carroll C
JournalHealth information and libraries journal
Date Published2015 Sep
AbstractBACKGROUND: In recognising the potential value of theory in understanding how interventions work comes a challenge - how to make identification of theory less haphazard? OBJECTIVES: To explore the feasibility of systematic identification of theory. METHOD: We searched PubMed for published reviews (1998-2012) that had explicitly sought to identify theory. Systematic searching may be characterised by a structured question, methodological filters and an itemised search procedure. We constructed a template (BeHEMoTh - Behaviour of interest; Health context; Exclusions; Models or Theories) for use when systematically identifying theory. The authors tested the template within two systematic reviews. RESULTS: Of 34 systematic reviews, only 12 reviews (35%) reported a method for identifying theory. Nineteen did not specify how they identified studies containing theory. Data were unavailable for three reviews. Candidate terms include concept(s)/conceptual, framework(s), model(s), and theory/theories/theoretical. Information professionals must overcome inadequate reporting and the use of theory out of context. The review team faces an additional concern in lack of 'theory fidelity'. CONCLUSIONS: Based on experience with two systematic reviews, the BeHEMoTh template and procedure offers a feasible and useful approach for identification of theory. Applications include realist synthesis, framework synthesis or review of complex interventions. The procedure requires rigorous evaluation.
Alternate JournalHealth Info Libr J