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Identifying and resolving the frustrations of reviewing the improvement literature: The experiences of two improvement researchers
  1. Emma Jones1,2,
  2. Joy Furnival3,4,
  3. Wendy Carter5
  1. 1 Clinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2 Orthopaedic directorate, University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire (NHS Trust), Coventry, United Kingdom
  3. 3 Improvement Directorate, NHS Improvement, Waterloo House, London, UK
  4. 4 Health Management Group, Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  5. 5 Maternity Services, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emma Jones, clinical trials unit, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; e.jones.11{at}


Background and aims Summarising quality improvement (QI) research through systematic literature review has great potential to improve patient care. However, heterogeneous terminology, poor definition of QI concepts and overlap with other scientific fields can make it hard to identify and extract data from relevant literature. This report examines the compromises and pragmatic decisions that undertaking literature review in the field of QI requires and the authors propose recommendations for literature review authors in similar fields.

Methods Two authors (EJ and JF) provide a reflective account of their experiences of conducting a systematic literature review in the field of QI. They draw on wider literature to justify the decisions they made and propose recommendations to improve the literature review process. A third collaborator, (WC) co-created the paper challenging author’s EJ and JF views and perceptions of the problems and solutions of conducting a review of literature in QI.

Results Two main challenges were identified when conducting a review in QI. These were defining QI and selecting QI studies. Strategies to overcome these problems include: select a multi-disciplinary authorship team; review the literature to identify published QI search strategies, QI definitions and QI taxonomies; Contact experts in related fields to clarify whether a paper meets inclusion criteria; keep a reflective account of decision making; submit the protocol to a peer reviewed journal for publication.

Conclusions The QI community should work together as a whole to create a scientific field with a shared vision of QI to enable accurate identification of QI literature. Our recommendations could be helpful for systematic reviewers wishing to evaluate complex interventions in both QI and related fields.

  • quality improvement
  • continuous quality improvement
  • complexity

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  • Contributors EJ planned and managed the overall conduct of this study. EJ, JF and WC contributed to writing the manuscript. EJ submitted the study.

  • Funding This work was completed with support from three PhD improvement science studentships for EJ, JF and WC from the Health Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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