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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. 

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


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, D., Mulrow, C., & Haynes, R. (1997). Systematic reviews: Synthesis of best evidence for clinical decisions. Annals of Internal Medicine, 126(5), 376-380.


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. (2005). The integrative review: Updated methodology. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 52(5), 546-53. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03621.x

Further Reading

Grant MJ, Booth A. (2009). A Typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal26(2), 91-108doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), 143. doi:10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x

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

The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Reviewers' manual. This manual provides guidance to authors for the conduct and preparation of JBI systematic reviews and scoping reviews.