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Literature Reviews

This guide introduces the basics of how to conduct a variety of literature reviews.

Overview of a Literature Review

A literature review is a generic term used to describe a synthesis of information to answer a research question. The purpose of a literature review is to present the scholarly information that is available on a topic, provide support to the proposed research, and relate the literature to the proposed research question. There are numerous types of literature reviews. These vary from a narrative review to a systematic review. 

Review types differ by

  • the precision of the research question (broad to specific)
  • the goal of the review
  • the standards of the searching method
  • if the articles are appraised
  • how information from various sources is synthesized
  • the analysis of the results
  • showing the current state of the literature around a particular topic

Various Review Types

Review Type Definition Search methods Appraisal Synthesis Analysis

Literature or Narrative Review

(May be completed by a single author)

Generic term: A synthesis of current literature surrounding a specific topic. The purpose of a narrative review is to provide background information on the topic, support the proposed research and/or answer a research question. Non-specific; Author chooses relevant articles based on research question.  Determined by the author Narrative Chronological, conceptual, thematic, etc.

Scoping/Mapping Review

(Requires a minimum of 2 authors)

Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature on a broad topic. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence. Includes grey literature, preprints and ongoing studies. Scoping reviews are conducted based upon the JBI manual of evidence synthesis. Broad scope of literature available. Search methods must be transparent and reproducible. Search strategies are peer reviewed & documented in full.  All evidence is independently screened by 2 reviewers to ensure evidence meets the  inclusion criteria. The critical appraisal process is optional but recommended Narrative Characterizes quantity and quality of literature based upon the elements of the PCC research question and the inclusion/exclusion criteria

Systematic Review

(Requires a minimum of 2 authors)

Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesize all available research evidence on the topic. SRs answer a specific research question and are conducted based upon the JBI manual of evidence synthesis. Exhaustive, comprehensive, & systematic search. Search methods must be transparent & reproducible. Search strategies are peer reviewed & well documented.  All evidence is independently screened by 2 reviewers to meet inclusion criteria and critically appraised using the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklists Narrative Synthesizes what is known within the existing literature. Highlights what is unknown, and recommends future research. 

Umbrella Review

(Requires a minimum of 2 authors)

Reviews the results of multiple systematic reviews on a specific topic. All reviews must analyze a shared methodology, facilitating comparison and analysis. Umbrella reviews are conducted based upon the JBI manual of evidence synthesis Exhaustive, comprehensive & systematic search of reviews. Does not include primary studies. Search methods must be transparent, reproducible and well documented.  All evidence is independently screened by 2 reviewers to meet inclusion criteria and critically appraised using the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklists Graphical and tabular with narrative commentary What is known; Recommendations for practice. What remains unknown; recommendations for future research

Rapid Review

(Requires a minimum of 2 authors)

Assessment of what is already known about a policy or practice issue, by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research. RRs are conducted according to the JBI manual of evidence synthesis Completeness of searching determined by time constraints. All search strategies must be transparent, reproducible and documented. 

Time-limited formal quality assessment.

All evidence is independently screened by 2 reviewers to meet inclusion criteria

Narrative and tabular Quantities of literature and overall quality/direction of effect of literature
Meta-analysis

Statistical analysis of  quantitative evidence provided within a Systematic Review.

Meta-analysis are conducted according to the JBI manual of evidence synthesis

Exhaustive, comprehensive & systematic search of reviews. Does not include primary studies. Search methods must be transparent, reproducible and documented.  All evidence has been critically appraised in the systematic review Graphical representation in a Forest plot.  Numerical analysis of measures of effect assuming absence of heterogeneity

Reproduced from Grant, M. J. and 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

Which review is right for you?

 

A map representation of how to determine the type of literature review

 

Library Support

Whichever review type you decide to conduct, the A.T. Still Memorial Librarians are happy to assist you throughout the process.

Librarians can assist you with:

  • Selecting a review type
  • Educating you and your team on different review types
  • Education on required elements of the review
  • Providing resources to assist throughout the process
  • Putting together a search strategy
  • Selecting resources to search
  • Organizing search results

Liaison Librarians