In the process of undertaking a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies of free-standing midwife-led units, the authors of this paper encountered a number of methodologically and epistemologically unresolved issues. One of these related to the assessment of the quality of qualitative research. In an iterative approach to scoping this issue, we identified eight existing checklists and summary frameworks. Some of these publications were opinion based, and some involved a synthesis of pre-existing frameworks. None of them provide a clear map of the criteria used in all their reviewed papers, and of the commonalities and differences between them. We critically review these frameworks and conclude that, although they are epistemologically and theoretically dense, they are excessively detailed for most uses. In order to reach a workable solution to the problem of the quality assessment of qualitative research, the findings from these frameworks and checklists were mapped together. Using a technique we have termed a ‘redundancy approach’ to eliminate non-essential criteria, we developed our own summary framework. The final synthesis was achieved through reflexive debate and discussion. Aspects of this discussion are detailed here. The synthesis is clearly rooted in a subjectivist epistemology, which views knowledge as constructed and hermeneutic in intent, encompassing individual, cultural and structural representations of reality.