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Systematic Review Service: What Type of Review is Right for You?

Need Help Deciding?

If you are unsure what kind of review is most appropriate for your question, timeframe, or resources, read about the common types of reviews below, or try following our decision tree.

Scoping Reviews

A scoping review "provides a preliminary assessment of the potential size and scope of available research literature. It aims to identify the nature and extent of research evidence." (Grant & Booth, 2009) These reviews, also called mapping reviews or scoping studies, can be used to identify key concepts within a field and clarify definitions in terminology. Scoping reviews can be useful for examining emerging evidence in instances when it is unclear what specific question should be addressed. They differ from systematic reviews by addressing broader topics and not typically assessing the quality of individual studies.

The Scoping Review Process (Arksey & O'Malley, 2005; Peters et al., 2015; Peters et al., 2020)

  • Defining the research question
  • Searching the evidence
  • Selecting the evidence
  • Extracting or "charting" the data
  • Summarizing and reporting the evidence

Authors of scoping reviews may find it helpful to use the PCC (population, concept, context) framework when formulating a research question.


Rapid Reviews

Rapid reviews aim to be rigorous in their methodology but set limits on the process in order to shorten the timeframe of review completion (Grant & Booth, 2009). Several stages of the review process may be limited, including the scope of the question, the comprehensiveness of the search strategy, or the quality appraisal. The review authors explore the effects these limited methods may have had on the results.


Literature Reviews

A literature review is an account of what has been published by scholars and researchers on a particular topic. You may be asked to write one as an assignment for class, or you may be writing one as part of the introduction to a research article or dissertation. This type of review does not follow any standardized methodology.

A literature review should:

  • Tell the reader what is known, or not known, about a particular issue, topic, or subject
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a topic
  • Establish context or background for your argument
  • Help you develop your own ideas and perspective


Umbrella Reviews

An umbrella review addresses the growing number of systematic reviews and research syntheses being published each year. An umbrella review, or a review of reviews, is a systematic review that only considers other systematic reviews as an eligible study type for inclusion.


Integrative Reviews

Well done integrative reviews present the state of the science, contribute to theory development, and have direct applicability to practice and policy (Whittemore and Knafl, 2005). Integrative reviews allow for the inclusion of experimental and non-experimental research. They may combine data from theoretical literature in addition to empirical studies. Integrative reviews have been labeled as the "broadest type of research review methods" because they allow for the inclusion of a variety of types of data; but they also may serve to define concepts, review theories, review evidence and analyze methodological issues.

Stages of an Integrative Review (Whittemore and Knafl)

  • Problem identification
  • Literature search
  • Data evaluation
  • Data analysis
  • Presentation