Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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