This guide focuses on the methodology for systematic reviews (SRs), but an SR may not be the best methodology to use to meet your project's goals. Use the articles listed here or in the Types of Literature Reviews box below for information about additional methodologies that could better fit your project.
NOTE: The term "systematic review" is also used incorrectly as a blanket term for other types of reviews.
For issues in systematic reviews, especially in social science or other qualitative research:
Scoping Review or Evidence Map
Systematically and transparently collect and categorize existing evidence on a broad question of policy or management importance.
Seeks to identify research gaps and opportunities for evidence synthesis rather than searching for the effect of an intervention.
May critically evaluate existing evidence, but does not attempt to synthesize the results in the way a systematic review would. (see EE Journal and CIFOR)
May take longer than a systematic review.
Hilary Arksey & Lisa O'Malley (2005) Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework http://10.1080/1364557032000119616
Aromataris E, Munn Z, eds. (2020). JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. JBI. Chapter 11: Scoping Reviews. https://wiki.jbi.global/display/MANUAL/Chapter+11%3A+Scoping+reviews
Munn Z, Peters MD, Stern C, Tet al. (2018) Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30453902/
Tricco AC, Lillie E, Zarin W, et al.. PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and Explanation. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Oct 2;169(7):467-473. doi: 10.7326/M18-0850. Epub 2018 Sep 4. PMID: 30178033. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/epdf/10.7326/M18-0850
Bouldin E, Patel SR, Tey CS, et al. Bullying and Children who are Deaf or Hard-of-hearing: A Scoping Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33438758
Finn M, Gilmore B, Sheaf G, Vallières F. What do we mean by individual capacity strengthening for primary health care in low- and middle-income countries? A systematic scoping review to improve conceptual clarity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33407554/
Hirt J, Nordhausen T, Meichlinger J, Braun V, Zeller A, Meyer G. Educational interventions to improve literature searching skills in the health sciences: a scoping review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33013210/
Useful for addressing issues needing timely decisions, such as developing policy recommendations.
Applies systematic review methodology within a time-constrained setting.
Employs intentional, methodological "shortcuts" (limiting search terms for example) at the risk of introducing bias.
Defining characteristic is the transparency of team methodological choices.
Garritty, Chantelle, Gerald Gartlehner, Barbara Nussbaumer-Streit, Valerie J. King, Candyce Hamel, Chris Kamel, Lisa Affengruber, and Adrienne Stevens. “Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group Offers Evidence-Informed Guidance to Conduct Rapid Reviews.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 130 (February 2021): 13–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2020.10.007.
WHO. “WHO | Rapid Reviews to Strengthen Health Policy and Systems: A Practical Guide.” World Health Organization. Accessed February 11, 2022. http://www.who.int/alliance-hpsr/resources/publications/rapid-review-guide/en/.
Dobbins, Maureen. “Steps for Conducting a Rapid Review,” 2017, 25. https://www.nccmt.ca/uploads/media/media/0001/01/a816af720e4d587e13da6bb307df8c907a5dff9a.pdf
Norris HC, Richardson HM, Benoit MC, et al. (2021) Utilization Impact of Cost-Sharing Elimination for Preventive Care Services: A Rapid Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34157906/
Marcus N, Stergiopoulos V. Re-examining mental health crisis intervention: A rapid review comparing outcomes across police, co-responder and non-police models. Health Soc Care Community. 2022 Feb 1. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13731. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35103364.
Narrative (Literature) Review
A broad term referring to reviews with a wide scope and non-standardized methodology.
Search strategies, comprehensiveness, and time range covered will vary and do not follow an established protocol.
It provides insight into a particular topic by critically examining sources, generally over a particular period of time.
Greenhalgh, T., Thorne, S., & Malterud, K. (2018). Time to challenge the spurious hierarchy of systematic over narrative reviews?. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29578574/