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Systematic Reviews: A How-To Guide

Overview of systematic review steps and resources to assist researchers conducting reviews

Types of Reviews

Systematic reviews, while common in the health sciences field, are not the only type of review that exist. In their widely cited article entitled "A Typology of Reviews: An Analysis of 14 Review Types and Associated Methodologies," Grant and Booth (2009) outline several major types of reviews, including the following (adapted from pages 94-95 in their article - see link below):

Label

Description

 
 

Critical review

Aims to demonstrate writer has extensively researched literature and critically evaluated its quality. Goes beyond mere description to include degree of analysis and conceptual innovation. Typically results in hypothesis or model

 

Literature review

Generic term: published materials that provide examination of recent or current literature. Can cover wide range of subjects at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness. May include research findings

 

Mapping review/ systematic map

Map out and categorize existing literature from which to commission further reviews and/or primary research by identifying gaps in research literature

 

Meta-analysis

Technique that statistically combines the results of quantitative studies to provide a more precise effect of the results

 

Mixed studies review/mixed methods review

Refers to any combination of methods where one significant component is a literature review (usually systematic). Within a review context it refers to a combination of review approaches for example combining quantitative with qualitative research or outcome with process studies

 

Overview

Generic term: summary of the [medical] literature that attempts to survey the literature and describe its characteristics

 

Qualitative systematic review/qualitative evidence synthesis

Method for integrating or comparing the findings from qualitative studies. It looks for ‘themes’ or ‘constructs’ that lie in or across individual qualitative studies

 

Rapid review

Assessment of what is already known about a policy or practice issue, by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research

 

Scoping review

Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research)

 

State-of-the-art review

Tend to address more current matters in contrast to other combined retrospective and current approaches. May offer new perspectives on issue or point out area for further research

 

Systematic review

Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesis research evidence, often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review

 

Systematic search and review

Combines strengths of critical review with a comprehensive search process. Typically addresses broad questions to produce ‘best evidence synthesis’

 

Systematized review

Attempt to include elements of systematic review process while stopping short of systematic review. Typically conducted as postgraduate student assignment

 

Umbrella review

Specifically refers to review compiling evidence from multiple reviews into one accessible and usable document. Focuses on broad condition or problem for which there are competing interventions and highlights reviews that address these interventions and their results

 


Grant, M.J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26, 91–108. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x