Qualitative research in physiotherapy: A systematic mapping review of 20 years literature from sub-Saharan Africa

Michael Kalu, Augustine Okoh, Ebuka Anieto, Miracle Ibekaku, Ukachukwu Abaraogu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Study aim: To summarize the current state and quality of qualitative research conducted by physiotherapists in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Methods: We systematically searched multiple databases from 2000 to December 2020 and included peer-reviewed qualitative studies conducted by physiotherapists in SSA countries. Two reviewers independently screened citations, extracted data, and assessed the quality of the included studies using the 45-items checklist by Lundgren, and colleagues. Conventional content analysis was employed to create physiotherapy subject areas from the included studies.

Results: We included 114 studies, a majority of 84 (74%) conducted in South Africa. Included studies were categorized into five subject areas: sports (n = 2), disability (n = 16), professional practice (n = 24), education and training (n = 36), and care provision (n = 36). We rated 74 (65%), 29 (25%), and 11 (10%) of the included research as low reporting quality, moderate- and high reporting quality, respectively. There was a significant lack of reporting on researchers' team characteristics, reflexivity, and member checking.

Conclusion: We conclude that the reporting of published qualitative studies in SSA shows variable quality, albeit mostly low, focused mainly on care provision, education, and training. Physiotherapy-researchers are encouraged to report reflexive practice and member checking when conducting qualitative research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2022


  • Qualitative research
  • physiotherapists
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • systematic mapping review


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