Skip to main content

Barwon Health Library Service: Types of Reviews

Evidence for Excellence

Types of Reviews

Reproduced from: Grant MJ, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J. 2009 Jun;26(2):91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 19490148

Label Description Search Appraisal Synthesis Analysis
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 Seeks to identify most significant items in the field No formal quality assessment. Attempts to evaluate according to contribution Typically narrative, perhaps conceptual or chronological Significant component: seeks to identify conceptual contribution to embody existing or derive new theory

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 May or may not include comprehensive searching May or may not include quality assessment Typically narrative Analysis may be chronological, conceptual, thematic, etc

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

Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints

No formal quality assessment

May be graphical and tabular

Characterizes quantity and quality of literature, perhaps by study design and other key features. May identify need for primary or secondary research

Meta‐analysis

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

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching. May use funnel plot to assess completeness

Quality assessment may determine inclusion/exclusion and/or sensitivity analyses

Graphical and tabular with narrative commentary

Numerical analysis of measures of effect assuming absence of heterogeneity

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

Requires either very sensitive search to retrieve all studies or separately conceived quantitative and qualitative strategies

Requires either a generic appraisal instrument or separate appraisal processes with corresponding checklists

Typically both components will be presented as narrative and in tables. May also employ graphical means of integrating quantitative and qualitative studies

Analysis may characterise both literatures and look for correlations between characteristics or use gap analysis to identify aspects absent in one literature but missing in the other

Overview

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

May or may not include comprehensive searching (depends whether systematic overview or not)

May or may not include quality assessment (depends whether systematic overview or not)

Synthesis depends on whether systematic or not. Typically narrative but may include tabular features

Analysis may be chronological, conceptual, thematic, etc.

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

May employ selective or purposive sampling

Quality assessment typically used to mediate messages not for inclusion/exclusion

Qualitative, narrative synthesis

Thematic analysis, may include conceptual models

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

Completeness of searching determined by time constraints

Time‐limited formal quality assessment

Typically narrative and tabular

Quantities of literature and overall quality/direction of effect of literature

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)

Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints. May include research in progress

No formal quality assessment

Typically tabular with some narrative commentary

Characterizes quantity and quality of literature, perhaps by study design and other key features. Attempts to specify a viable review

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

Aims for comprehensive searching of current literature

No formal quality assessment

Typically narrative, may have tabular accompaniment

Current state of knowledge and priorities for future investigation and research

Systematic review

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

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching

Quality assessment may determine inclusion/exclusion

Typically narrative with tabular accompaniment

What is known; recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; uncertainty around findings, recommendations for future research

Systematic search and review

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

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching

May or may not include quality assessment

Minimal narrative, tabular summary of studies

What is known; recommendations for practice. Limitations

Systematized review

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

May or may not include comprehensive searching

May or may not include quality assessment

Typically narrative with tabular accompaniment

What is known; uncertainty around findings; limitations of methodology

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

Identification of component reviews, but no search for primary studies

Quality assessment of studies within component reviews and/or of reviews themselves

Graphical and tabular with narrative commentary

What is known; recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; recommendations for future research