"The idea of a systematic review is a nonsense, and the sooner those advocates of it are tried at the International Court of Human Rights in the Hague (or worse still, sent for counseling), the better." (Rees, 2002).
Nevertheless, since Rees made these comments, systematic reviews have shown their worth as crucial to the evidence-based practice of health care professionals in particular, often used as the basis for the creation of clinical guidelines. They are also increasingly being used in other disciplines such as psychology, education, sociology, environmental science, engineering and business management.
"Systematic reviews seek to collate evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to answer a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods documented in advance with a protocol." (Cochrane Handbook, V. 6.1.0, 2019)
Key characteristics include:
|NOTE: A Meta-analysis is a statistical way to combine the data extracted from a systematic review. Every meta-analysis has a systematic review behind it, but not every systematic review results in a meta-analysis!|
Rees, J. L. (2002). Two cultures? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 46(2), 313-314. doi:10.1067/mjd.2002.120618
Researchers, academics and librarians all use various terms to describe different types of literature reviews. Indeed there is often confusion between the ways the types are described. The table below has been adapted from a widely used typology of fourteen types of reviews, but here we describe four of the most common types:
|REVIEW TYPES||DESCRIPTION||APPROXIMATE TIMEFRAME||NO. OF REVIEWERS|
|Systematic review||Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesise research evidence in order to aid decision-making and determine best practice. Systematic reviews can vary in their approach, and are often specific to the type of study: studies of effectiveness, qualitative research, economic evaluation, prevalence, aetiology or risk, diagnostic test accuracy and so on.||8 months to 2 years||2 or more|
|Rapid review||Assesses what is known about an issue by using a systematic review method to search and appraise research and determine best practice.||2-6 months||2|
|Scoping review||Assesses the potential scope of the research literature on a particular topic. Helps determine gaps in the research.||2-8 weeks||1-2|
|Traditional (narrative) literature review||A generic review which identifies and reviews published literature on a topic, which may be broad. Typically employs a narrative approach to reporting the review findings. Can include a wide range of related subjects.||1-4 weeks||1|
For a more detailed list of review types, see:
Grant, M.J. & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x
See also our Library Resource Guide, Literature Review.
With thanks and acknowledgements to Deakin University Library.