If you’re thinking about undertaking a major literature review project to answer a specific research question,, you may be interested in learning more about a special type of review called a systematic review. At the University Libraries, we can help you get started on and provide support throughout a project of this kind.
What are systematic reviews? Unlike traditional literature reviews, systematic reviews are comprehensive literature reviews undertaken using a well-established method to answer very specific research questions. Authors of a systematic review aim to find, code, appraise, and synthesize all of the previous research on their question in an unbiased and well-documented manner. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) outline the minimum amount of information that needs to be reported at the conclusion of a systematic review project.
The systematic review process, however, isn’t the only literature review methodology available to potential authors. Known collectively as “evidence syntheses,” other common types include meta-analyses, scoping, and rapid reviews:
- Meta-Analyses. A systematic method that uses statistics to analyze the data from numerous studies. The researchers combine the data from studies with similar data types and analyze them as a single, expanded dataset.
- Scoping Reviews. Often an excellent choice for newer authors interested in exploring a topic, scoping reviews employ the systematic review methodology but focus on a broader topic or question rather than a specific and answerable one. Authors of these types of reviews often seek to collect and categorize the existing literature so as to identify any gaps.
- Rapid Reviews. You may have heard of rapid reviews in the context of synthesizing the literature on COVID-19. Essentially, these are systematic reviews conducted under a time constraint. Researchers make use of workarounds to complete the review quickly (e.g., only looking at English-language publications), which can lead to a less thorough and more biased review.
To learn more about systematic reviews and other types of evidence syntheses, visit our Systematic Review Services page or contact Elena Azadbakht, Health Sciences Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elena is happy to meet with you, your research team, or class to discuss systematic review basics or to help identify the review type and resources that fit the specific topic or research question you have in mind.
The University Libraries embrace intellectual inquiry and innovation, nurture the production of new knowledge, and foster excellence in learning, teaching and research. During each academic year, the Libraries welcomes more than 1.2 million visitors across its network of three branch libraries: the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library and the Savitt Medical Library. Visitors checked-out more than 90,000 items and completed more than 2 million database searches.