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Ways to review the literature

An overview of the types of literature reviews you might do as part of your research.

How many ways can you do a literature review?

There are more types of literature review than you will need to use for assignments and research. Here we've given you an overview of the types you are most likely to need to use.

If you want to explore other types of reviews, "A typology of reviews" looks at 14 different types. There is a description, perceived strengths, perceived weaknesses and an example for each type.

Grant, Maria J, & Booth, Andrew. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of resources that have been summarised, evaluated, and critiqued into a short paragraph. The objective of the annotated bibliography is to inform the reader of the accuracy, relevance and quality of the information provided on a particular topic.

The resources included in an annotated bibliography include, but are not limited to, books, articles, and documents.

Literature review

Also known as a traditional literature review, or narrative review, a literature review enables a students and researchers to identify and appraise literature on a particular topic or area of research.

Undertaking a literature review assists in identifying gaps in the literature that may lead to further investigation or research on that particular topic.

Literature review questions are generally broad, and the reviewer may or may not use a framework to assist in the development of their question or search strategy.

 

For more information, go to our Literature Review guide

Systematic literature review

A systematic literature review is used to identify and appraise relevant literature in response to a clearly formulated question. This type of literature review applies the rigorous, methodical approach to searching and assessing results used in medical fields to literature in other fields such as education and management.

Integrative review

An integrative review takes a broad systematic approach that enables the reviewer to summarise literature that is both empirical and/or theoretical.

Integrative reviews are generally undertaken by the nursing cohort as the review approach enables the inclusion of a diverse range of methodologies such as experimental and non-experimental research.

An integrative review does have its limitations due to the complexity of combining sources using multiple methodologies. This can impact on the accuracy, consistency and bias of the review process and its results.

Scoping review

To undertake a scoping review is to understand the “lay of the land” on a topic.

Although there is no definitive definition of what a scoping review is, the general consensus amongst authors is that Mays et al (2001) best describes a scoping review.

According to Mays et al (2001), scoping reviews or scoping studies aim “to map rapidly the key concepts underpinning a research area and the main sources and types of evidence available and can be undertaken as stand-alone projects in their own right, especially where an area is complex or has not been reviewed comprehensively before” (p. 194).

Reference

Mays, N., Roberts, E., & Popay, J. (2001). Synthesising research evidence. In Studying the organisation and delivery of health services: Research methods, 220.

 

For more information, go to our Scoping Review guide

Rapid review

Seen as an alternative to systematic reviews, the rapid review enables clinicians, managers and/or policy makers who are time poor or who have time constraints to find the information they require in a timely manner to make evidence based informed decisions.

The methods used to undertake a rapid review are the same methods used when undertaking a systematic review.

A rapid review is generally undertaken anywhere from 1 to 6 months and the depths in which a researcher goes into each step of the rapid review process will vary. The review question is narrow, and reviewers may use the PICO framework to formulate their question and search strategy.

The components taken from the systematic review process are generally simplified or parts often omitted in the rapid review process (Dobbins, 2017).

Reference

Dobbins, M. (2017). Rapid review guidebook steps for conducting a rapid review. Retrieved from http://www.nccmt.ca/uploads/media/media/0001/01/a816af720e4d587e13da6bb307df8c907a5dff9a.pdf

 

For more information, go to our Rapid Review guide

Systematic review

“A systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. The key characteristics of a systematic review are: a clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria, rigorous & systematic search of the literature, critical appraisal of included studies, data extraction and management, analysis & interpretation of results, report for publication” (Duke University).

Reference

Duke University (2021) Systematic Reviews: the process: Home. Retrieved from https://guides.mclibrary.duke.edu/sysreview

 

For more information, go to our Systematic Review guide