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Applying GRADE-CERQual to qualitative evidence synthesis findings – paper 6 : how to assess relevance of the data.

Noyes, Jane and Booth, Andrew and Lewin, Simon and Carlsen, Benedicte and Glenton, Claire and Colvin, Christopher J. and Garside, Ruth and Bohren, Meghan A. and Rashidian, Arash and Wainwright, Megan and Tunςalp, Özge and Chandler, Jacqueline and Flottorp, Signe and Pantoja, Tomas and Tucker, Joseph D. and Munthe-Kaas, Heather (2018) 'Applying GRADE-CERQual to qualitative evidence synthesis findings – paper 6 : how to assess relevance of the data.', Implementation science., 13 (S1). p. 4.


Background: The GRADE-CERQual (Confidence in Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research) approach has been developed by the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) Working Group. The approach has been developed to support the use of findings from qualitative evidence syntheses in decision-making, including guideline development and policy formulation. CERQual includes four components for assessing how much confidence to place in findings from reviews of qualitative research (also referred to as qualitative evidence syntheses): (1) methodological limitations, (2) coherence, (3) adequacy of data and (4) relevance. This paper is part of a series providing guidance on how to apply CERQual and focuses on CERQual’s relevance component. Methods: We developed the relevance component by searching the literature for definitions, gathering feedback from relevant research communities and developing consensus through project group meetings. We tested the CERQual relevance component within several qualitative evidence syntheses before agreeing on the current definition and principles for application. Results: When applying CERQual, we define relevance as the extent to which the body of data from the primary studies supporting a review finding is applicable to the context (perspective or population, phenomenon of interest, setting) specified in the review question. In this paper, we describe the relevance component and its rationale and offer guidance on how to assess relevance in the context of a review finding. This guidance outlines the information required to assess relevance, the steps that need to be taken to assess relevance and examples of relevance assessments. Conclusions: This paper provides guidance for review authors and others on undertaking an assessment of relevance in the context of the CERQual approach. Assessing the relevance component requires consideration of potentially important contextual factors at an early stage in the review process. We expect the CERQual approach, and its individual components, to develop further as our experiences with the practical implementation of the approach increase.

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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:09 May 2018
Date of first online publication:25 January 2018
Date first made open access:09 May 2018

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