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Reviews: From Systematic to Narrative: Review By Type

Definitions and Types of Reviews

Just a few general comments on reviews.  The oldest type of formal study is the literature review.  Most of you have done this at one time or another.  As a publication type it is an article or book published after examination of previously published material on a subject. It may be comprehensive to various degrees and the time range of material scrutinized may be broad or narrow, but the reviews most often desired are reviews of the current literature. The textual material examined may be equally broad and can encompass, in medicine specifically, clinical material as well as experimental research or case reports. State-of-the-art reviews tend to address more current matters. A review of the literature must be differentiated from HISTORICAL ARTICLE on the same subject, but a review of historical literature is also within the scope of this publication type.  The literature review examines published materials which provide an examination of recent or current literature. Review articles can cover a wide range of subject matter at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness based on analyses of literature that may include research findings. The review may reflect the state of the art. It also includes reviews as a literary form.

 An integrative review summarizes past research and draws overall conclusions from the body of literature on a particular topic.  The body of literature comprises all studies that address related or identical hypotheses.  In a properly executed integrative review, the effects of subjectivity are minimized through carefully applied criteria for evaluation. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor and replication.

A meta-analysis goes beyond critique and integration and conducts secondary statistical analyses on the outcomes of similar studies.  An advantage of a meta-analysis is the ability to be completely objective in evaluating research findings.  Not all topics, however, have sufficient research evidence to allow a meta-analysis to be conducted.  In that case, an integrative review is an appropriate strategy.  A meta-analysis may be part of a systematic review.

A systematic review is, as the title suggests, an review of all the known information from every identifiable source on a specific topic.

Evidence-based medicine/practice is the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence-based medicine requires the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research and the patient's unique values and circumstances.

Other Review Types

The reviews listed below represent reviews, many only recently developed, that populate the health sciences literature.  Some of them have their own pages under this tab.


Critical Review

Mapping Review or Systematic Map

Mixed Studies Review or Mixed Methods Review


Qualitative Systematic Review or Qualitative Evidence Synthesis

Rapid Review

Scoping review

Systematic Search and Reviews

Systematized Review

Umbrella Review



Source:  Grant, MJ, Booth, A.  A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies.  Health Info Libr J. 2009 Jun; 26(2):91-108.  doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x.

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