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Systematic Reviews

Guidance on Methodologies

Systematic Reviews

  • Summary of research that addresses a focused clinical question in a systematic reproducible manner.
  • Requires a team of at least three members to screen and adjudicate included articles.
  • Includes a clearly defined research question formulated in a PICO framework.
  • Requires a written protocol that may be registered with PROSPERO or another registration agency.
  • Includes a systematic and replicable search strategy using multiple databases. Often two of the following:
  • PubMed/MEDLINE
  • Embase
  • Web of Science

plus a subject-specific database such as:

  • Often also includes a search for grey literature and hand-searching methods.
  • Generally follows reporting guidelines such as PRISMA.

Scoping Reviews

  • A literature review that is performed to rapidly outline the breadth, depth and type of literature available regarding a particular research topic.
  • An attempt to map out the evidence based on a research topic.
  • The completeness of the search is dictated by time restraints. This type of search may include research in progress.

Integrative Reviews

  • Reviews that include both qualitative and quantitative evidence.
  • May be useful in research areas where there are few published trials.
  • May include literature from experimental and non-experimental research methodologies.
  • Often implemented by the nursing research community.

Rapid Reviews

  • Reviews that generally follow the guidelines of a systematic review, but are conducted in a condensed time by implementing documented time-saving measures.
  • Shortcuts may include:
    • Searching only one database.
    • Narrow search time frame.
    • Reliance on published material only.
    • Use of a single screener.

Literature Review

  • A general term that describes a study that assimilates, synthesizes or describes the findings of more than one study or review.
  • This is a review with a wide scope and non-standardized methodology. Synthesis is typically narrative.
  • The literature search does not need to be comprehensive or systematic.
  • These reviews typically do not attempt to address a single research question, but are more broad in scope and have no explicit criteria for inclusion.

Structured Literature Review

  • Also known as a Systematized Review.
  • Not formally defined.
  • Usually attempts to include elements of the systematic review process.
  • Often conducted as a postgraduate assignment or thesis.

Living Systematic Reviews

"We define an LSR as a systematic review which is continually updated, incorporating relevant new evidence as it becomes available." - Cochrane Living Evidence Network



  • Boland, A., Cherry, M. G., & Dickson, R. (2014). Doing a systematic review: a student's guide. London; Thousand Oakes, California: SAGE.
  • Colquhoun, H. L., Levac, D., O'Brien, K. K., Straus, S., Tricco, A. C., Perrier, L., . . . Moher, D. (2014). Scoping reviews: time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting. J Clin Epidemiol, 67(12), 1291-1294. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2014.03.013
  • Foster, M. J., & Jewell, S. T. (2017). Assembling the pieces of a systematic review: guide for librarians. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.  Full text for Emory Users
  • Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J, 26(2), 91-108. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x
  • Guyatt, G., Rennie, D., Meade, M., Cook, D., & American Medical Association. (2015). Users' guides to the medical literature. A manual for evidence-based clinical practice (Third edition. ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education Medical.  Full Text for Emory Users
  • Hopia, H., Latvala, E., & Liimatainen, L. (2016). Reviewing the methodology of an integrative review. Scand J Caring Sci, 30(4), 662-669. doi:10.1111/scs.12327
  • Library, B. U. Systematic and Literature Reviews. Retrieved from
  • Whittemore, R., & Knafl, K. (2005). The integrative review: updated methodology. J Adv Nurs, 52(5), 546-553. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03621.x