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Literature Reviews

What is an Umbrella Review?

An umbrella review is a synthesis of previously published systematic reviews.  The process of conducting an umbrella review is similar to a systematic review.

The basic steps include:

1. Develop an umbrella review protocol
This step will include a clear research question, a list of inclusion criteria, a search strategy, and how references will be screened and analyzed.

2. Conduct the search
The search strategy should have a robust search string and used in multiple sources.  A mixture of literature databases and grey literature should be used.  Read more about developing a search strategy on the Systematic Review Guide.

3. Screen and analyze the results
One key difference in screening articles in an umbrella review compared to a systematic review, is that all publication types must be either a systematic review or a meta-analysis.  Results are screened for relevance to the research question and methodological quality.

Critical appraisal checklist for systematic reviews and research syntheses



4. Report the findings
A narrative description of the review should provide context about the results.  A reader should have enough detail to understand why certain publications were included and how they answer the research question.  The presentation of results should also contain a flow chart of the review process and highlight specific points of interest from individual reviews.

Other names for Umbrella Reviews: Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews, Review of Reviews, Summary of Systematic Reviews, Synthesis of Reviews, Review of Systematic Reviews, Review of Reviews, Review of Meta-analyses, Meta-review, Systematic Meta-review, Overview of Reviews

Adapted from Aromataris, Edoardo1; Fernandez, Ritin2; Godfrey, Christina M.3; Holly, Cheryl4; Khalil, Hanan5; Tungpunkom, Patraporn6 Summarizing systematic reviews, International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare: September 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 3 - p 132-140 doi: 10.1097/XEB.0000000000000055

Guidance on Umbrella Reviews

Example Umbrella Reviews