Skip to main content

Systematic Reviews: Home


Systematic Review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias, in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. (Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, Section 1.2)

Systematic review focuses on peer-reviewed publications about a specific health problem and use rigorous, standardized methods for selecting and assessing articles. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is a quantitative summary of the results. (CEBM)


Scoping Review: A type of literature review that aims to provide an overview of the type, extent and quantity of research available on a given topic. By ‘mapping’ existing research, a scoping review can identify potential research gaps and future research needs, and do so by using systematic and transparent methods. (HLWIKI Canada)


Narrative Review deals with a broad range of issues related to a given topic rather than addressing a particular issue in depth. It looks at the history or development of a problem, its management and the cutting-edge developments.

Differences between Narrative Reviews and Systematic Reviews


Narrative Review

Systematic Review


Often broad in scope

Often a focused clinical question

Sources and search

Not usually specified, potentially biased

Comprehensive sources and explicit search strategy 


Not usually specified, potentially biased

Criterion based selection, uniformly applied



Rigorous, critical appraisal


Often a qualitative summary

Quantitative summary*


Sometimes evidence-based

Usually evidence-based

* A quantitative summary that includes a statistical synthesis is a meta-analysis.

Cook DJ, Mulrow CD, Haynes RB. Systematic reviews: Synthesis of best evidence for clinical decisions. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1997;126(5):376-80.


Rapid Review: A brief synthesis and judgement of the available research evidence related to a specific question posed by policy officers. The research evidence is drawn primarily from existing systematic reviews, meta-analyses and economic evaluations.(Department of Health and Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia,. Rapid reviews.   [updated 2014, May 15; cited 2015 Jul 15]; Available from:

Integrative Review: The broadest type of research review methods allowing for the simultaneous inclusion of experimental and non-experimental research in order to more fully understand a phenomenon of concern. Integrative reviews may also combine data from the theoretical as well as empirical literature. (Whittemore R, Knafl K. The integrative review: updated methodology. J Adv Nurs.  2005 [cited 2015 July 17];52(5):546-53. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03621.x )

Further Reading

Grant MJ, Booth A. A Typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Info Libr J. 2009;26(2):91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

The Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewers' Manual 2015: Methodology for JBI Scoping Reviews

Peters, M. D. J., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. International Journal of Evidence-based Healthcare, 13(3), 141-146. doi:10.1097/XEB.0000000000000050

Peterson, J., Pearce, P. F., Ferguson, L. A., & Langford, C. A. (2017). Understanding scoping reviews: Definition, purpose, and process. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29(1), 12-16. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12380