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Systematic Reviews

A guide to conducting systematic reviews at the University of the Sunshine Coast

Types of reviews

The term Systematic Review is now used for many types of review . Different types have different aims and purposes so make sure you know which type you are doing and why. 

All types have this in common: they use  clearly stated, reproducible methods to identify  relevant literature to address a specific question or problem; then use a rigorous method to appraise, evaluate and summarise that information.

For a comprehensive list of reviews, please see the University of Melbourne's library guide, Which review is that?

More detailed information an be found in this article which gives a detailed description of the uses, strengths and weakness of each review type.

Grant, M.J. and Booth, A. (2009), A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26: 91-108.

Types of systematic review

Systematic review : Originally meant a review of randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) with a meta-analysis of the data extracted from those trials to create a more powerful synthesis of that data to enhance clinical decision making. This has more recently been broadened to include non-RCT studies when necessary. Example.

Meta-analysis always involves a related systematic review and uses statistical techniques to re-analyses the quantitative evidence. Example.

Meta-synthesis is a technique which enable qualitative evidence from multiple papers to be synthesised to reveal new understandings. Example.

Umbrella review: a review of systematic reviews. This involves more statistical analysis to reveal the best evidence from a number of existing SRs. Example.

Integrative review: this is a mixed-methods systematic review which aims to combine quantitative  and qualitative evidence on one topic and synthesise them into one coherent picture.  More information.  Example.

Rapid reviews: An alternative to a full SR which some steps are simplified to speed up the process. Sometimes this is done to answer an urgent clinical question. More informationExample.

Critically Appraised Topic (CAT): A short summary of best available evidence. This is very similar to a Rapid Review.  More informationExample.

Mapping review or Evidence map: Also called Evidence-gap maps or EGMs.  Another technique to re-analuse existing reviews and other evidence. These provide a visual overview of existing evidence and reveal evidence gaps. More  information.    Example.

Systematic -like reviews

Scoping review: In many disciplines the scoping review has now replaced the older narrative review . Scoping reviews use the same methods to collect and filter the literature that is followed by a systematic review, but  instead of analysing or synthesising the evidence, the aim is to gain a comprehensive overview of a field in order to  evaluate the current state of research and identify research gaps. For this reason it is often an ideal first step in research agendas, including honours, PhD and other projects. Example.

Systematized review. These us a SR methodology to identify candidate articles but often have a less rigorous analysis. These often function in a similar manner to Scoping Reviews in forming the first review of an ongoing research project. Example

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