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

Michael Kalu*, Augustine Okoh, Chukwuebuka Okeke, Ebuka Anieto, Michael Ibekaku, Ukachukwu Abaraogu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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

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.

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.

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
Number of pages23
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Early online date29 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2022


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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