McMaster Forum | Contextualized evidence syntheses

The Forum prepares timely and demand-driven contextualized evidence syntheses that address pressing health and social system issues faced by decision-makers as well as the type of ‘global public good’ producers over much longer time frames. This includes evidence syntheses produced in the timelines in the table below.

GoalTimeline*Type of product(s)Scope
Profile evidence and experiences quickly1-5 days
  • Rapid evidence profiles 
  • Living evidence profiles (updated at regular intervals)
  • Key insights from highly relevant evidence syntheses (and sometimes primary studies where no evidence syntheses exist) identified from targeted searches of bibliographic databases
  • Experiences from relevant jurisdictions identified from targeted searches of websites and documents
Synthesize evidence and experiences quickly2-10 weeks
  • Rapid syntheses
  • Living evidence synthesis (updated at regular intervals)
  • Synthesis of findings (rather than a profile of key insights) from all relevant evidence syntheses and primary studies identified (with scope depending on the timeline specified by the requester)
  • Analysis of experiences from relevant jurisdictions (with number of jurisdictions and depth of analysis depending on the timeline specified by the requester)
Comprehensively synthesize evidence (global public goods)2.5+ months
  • Full evidence syntheses (or enhancements to previous versions)
  • Evidence syntheses with interpretive and/or qualitative designs (e.g., critical interpretive and realist syntheses) or statistical analysis (e.g., meta-analysis)
  • Enhanced synthesis methods in terms of:
    • scope (e.g., number of sources searched, additional outcomes considered)
    • methods (e.g., duplicate study selection, data extraction, risk-of-bias assessment and additional analysis)
    • outputs (e.g., living evidence syntheses with enhancements incorporated over time)

To view examples of any of these types of products or to find any that we have completed on topics of interest to you, please browse our searchable products page.

Our contextualized evidence syntheses can be prepared in a way that includes a combination of different analyses to inform issues at different stages of the policy cycle. The question(s) we address may focus on helping decision-makers in: 
  1. understanding a problem and its causes 
  2. selecting options for addressing a problem
  3. identifying implementation considerations
  4. monitoring implementation and evaluating impacts.

Each synthesis includes, at a minimum, a policy analysis that underpins a profile or synthesis of the best-available evidence. This can be complemented by a systems analysis for determining how the relevant parts of a health or social system currently work and identifying options for doing things differently, and/or a political analysis for understanding the political factors that may affect whether and how issues move onto government agendas and policy decisions are made. This can include conducting jurisdictional scans and key informant interviews to harness a range of insights to contextualize the evidence identified.

In addition, contextualized evidence syntheses can be used to inform value-added processes such as horizon-scanning panels designed to identify, refine and prioritize upcoming key health- and social-system challenges and/or deliberative processes (e.g., citizen panels and stakeholder dialogues) designed to spark action to address pressing challenges.

Contact us at to set up a service agreement so your organization can call on us when a contextualized evidence synthesis is needed (or to initiate a request if your organization is covered under an existing service agreement).

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