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Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews (SR) are a very specific and rigorous type of review. Because SRs are almost at the very top of the Strength of the Evidence Pyramid, authors need to be aware they require a significant amount of time, planning and effort. Below is a review of some major types of reviews to help put an SR in context.


A meta-analysis is conducted by using statistical methods to summarize the results of a selected group of studies. Ideally these studies are selected using a systematic review methodology.

Systematic Review

A Systematic review (SR) is most simply defined as "studies of studies".  A systematic review is a research methodology that is used to answer a specifically defined question by using explicit methods for the exhaustive, comprehensive literature search and the critical appraisal of individual studies.  They are carefully crafted to minimize bias, to be reproducible, and to objectively critically appraise the included studies.  A well crafted systematic review provides a high level of evidence on the effectiveness of healthcare interventions.

Rapid Review

Rapid reviews apply the methodology of a systematic review but within a specific time constraint. The risk when doing this type of review can be the introduction of bias but can be very useful when quick decisions are needed.

Umbrella Review

An umbrella review is a review of systematic reviews on a specific topic. These reviews are often done when there are several competing interventions within systematic reviews.

Scoping Review or Evidence Map

A scoping review is an evidence synthesis, with the same exhaustive and comprehensive literature search but the purpose is to get "the lay of the land". A scoping review should identify gaps in knowledge, identifies the literature that is available, explains existing concepts describing the subject of the review or takes a closer look at what research has been conducted in this specific area. Authors may critically evaluate the evidence but there is no attempt to synthesize the results as seen in a Systematic review or Meta-Analysis.

Literature (Narrative) Review

A literature or narrative review refers to a review of current knowledge of a subject that does not follow a specific methodology or protocol.

Further reading:

 We are unable to accept Systematic Review searches until further notice. We can schedule a one hour consultation with a librarian to provide some guidance.

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