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Clinical and Research Support

Types of review

Systematic Review Synthesizes the results of homogenous experimental OR non-experimental research using a narrative analysis
Meta-analysis Synthesizes the effect of homogenous interventions evaluated by quantitative means using established statistical procedures
Qualitative synthesis Synthesizes the results of qualitative research using a narrative analysis
Mixed studies review

Synthesizes the results of experimental and non-experimental research using a statistical approach and/or a narrative analysis with integration of results

Integrative review

Synthesizes the results of research or theory using a narrative analysis
Scoping review Maps the key concepts and evidence of a particular phenomenon
RE-AIM review Evaluates and synthesizes the reach, efficacy, adoption, implementation, and maintenance of interventions
Umbrella review Summarizes results from systematic reviews on a topic

from 'Methods for knowledge synthesis: An overview.' Whittlemore et al.Heart & Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 43.5. 2014

Planning a systematic review

Preliminary investigation

Is there sufficient literature to warrant a review?

Has a review on the same topic been published recently? If so is your question sufficiently different or has enough time passed to warrant another review?

Is someone else  currently undertaking a review on the same topic? Consult PROSPERO to check if a protocol  for a similar review has been registered.

Scoping Review

A scoping review can be a  useful prior stage to a full systematic review. Scoping reviews aim to provide an overview of the literature around a topic. They are typically more broad, but with less depth than a systematic review, and generally do not include any statistical analysis. They can be useful for identifying questions which are suitable for a systematic review.



Systematic reviews are significant undertakings requiring more than a single individual's input. Typically a systematic review team will consist of:

  • an expert in the area being reviewed
  • at least two reviewers (to confound bias)
  • a member with knowledge of systematic review methodology
  • statistical expertise (if meta-analyses are being done)
  • a librarian or information expert to assist or advise on searching, article procurement and reference management procedures.

Note. If you are considering undertaking a review as an individual then it is more appropriate to describe your study as a review done in a systematic manner, than a systematic review per se. The same processes should be followed, as all research benefits from a systematic method, but a single researcher cannot eliminate bias from the review process, so cannot meet the standards of a systematic review.


Your question

You should have a clear idea on what you are question is. You need to do this before starting to search the literature in earnest so you do not waste time and effort on unnecessary material. Discuss with your team or supervisor what exactly you are asking and what the criteria for inclusion and exclusion are.

You might want to use the PICO framework to help form your question.


Study protocol

By the end of the planning stage you should have a protocol for your review. Writing up a protocol clarifies your intentions, provides a reference for team members and helps make sure you are well prepared for your study. It is a good idea to register your protocol at PROSPERO so other researchers do not inadvertently duplicate your study.