The Systematic Review Research Process: 8 Types of Systematic Reviews You Should Know (2023)

In general, a systematic review describes the rigorous process of systematically searching, collecting, synthesizing, and reporting data from studies to answer a well-defined research question. One of the first times we saw something resembling a “systematic review” in history was in 1753 when James Lind reported on all the known unbiased evidence and data on scurvy. However, systematic reviews as a research method truly rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s with the help of Archie Cochrane and his influential texts. Originally, systematic reviews were done manually. Now manual systematic reviews have begun to change over to systematic review software. The demand for quality evidence-based research has continued to grow as people are searching for more access to high-quality research and reviewed literature. Today, we see “systematic reviews” in some form or another across numerous industries, studies, and research fields. Systematic reviews are used in health industries, academia, toxicology, food sciences, and more. Systematic reviews include analysis and reporting that provides researchers with quality data and evidence to answer their research question. Learn more about the level of evidence of a systematic review.

Systematic reviews impact a vast number of industries and job roles, whether you’re a medical device professional, pharmacovigilance specialist, academic researcher, regulatory affairs expert, epidemiologist, risk analyst, or allied health professional. In these fields and many more, your job is probably somehow influenced by the studies and results of systematic reviews, even if you're not the individual conducting the reviews.

Although systematic reviews are seen throughout the global research community, there is a diverse range of terms and definitions used to describe the different review types and methods. Terms can change over the years and vary across research fields. For example, the review types you see in medicine or those in other health industries may vary from the review types and methods you see in the field of academia. In this post, we’re taking a general look at some of the most common types of systematic reviews, focusing on those that are defined (at least in some capacity) by a systematic approach to research:

(Video) Intro to Systematic Reviews & Meta-Analyses

1. Systematic Reviews

A systematic review is the process of systematically searching, gathering, synthesizing, and reporting data to answer a specific, well-defined research question. Within this type of review, we also see sub-categories including interventional reviews (examining whether or not a particular intervention works for a specific outcome), diagnostic reviews (examining how diagnostic tests work for patients), prognostic reviews (attempting to efficiently and accurately predict disease outcomes) and many other review types.

Best practices for conducting systematic reviews may differ between organizations, studies, and fields (e.g. the Cochrane Collaboration has its own preferred best review practices compared to other organizations) but typically recommend dual independent screening, which is when multiple people review the literature and evidence to determine what to include in the studies. When conducting the formal quality assessment review, it is essential to have clearly defined criteria or question to inform the exclusion or inclusion of references, assessment of the quality or risk of bias of included studies, and a synthesis of data and evidence. A systematic review typically has strict quality assessment attempts to ensure that the data meets the specified standards.

These reviews are typically done to assess what is currently known in the literature and develop recommended practices based on that evidence. Systematic reviews are also used to identify uncertainty in topics and recommend future research. Results from systematic reviews are usually presented as a narrative, in tables, and graphically using charts such as forest plots.

2. Literature Reviews

The name “literature review” is also sometimes used interchangeably with “systematic review” or “systematic literature review” depending on the industry. For example, “literature review” or “systematic literature review” are used widely in regulatory and medical device research to describe what is often a systematic review of the evidence although there may be differences in approaches and methods. This is somewhat confusing because in other fields, a literature review may be used to describe expert reviews that are conducted non-systematically. Quality assessment is not always definite in a literature review and results are presented as a narrative in most cases. When working with a literature review, you will want to check if the review included quality assessment standards.

(Video) An Introduction to the PRISMA 2020 Checklist for Systematic Reviews

3. Umbrella Reviews

Umbrella reviews summarize data from multiple systematic reviews, rather than looking at primary research studies. You can consider them to be a “review of reviews” or “overview of reviews.” Researchers access a variety of previously conducted reviews and compile them into one review document or research article. Umbrella reviews are typically used when the researcher needs to address competing interventions in different reviews to report and highlight research results. Umbrella reviews typically include quality assessment of the studies within the reviews or of the reviews themselves. The results of the analysis are often presented graphically or tabularly and include some narrative aspects.

4. Scoping Reviews

A scoping review can be done in conjunction with any of the other review and analysis types on this list. Typically, a scoping review aims to determine the potential size and scope of literature available. A research team might conduct a scoping review to help develop, prioritize, and refine research priorities and inform future reviews or primary research. Scoping reviews are also often used to predict resource requirements (time and budget) to help define review protocols and standards. Since scoping reviews are designed to determine the size and scope of literature available, they include comprehensive searching of available literature in multiple databases but quality assessment is not needed. Scoping reviews are presented in a tabular format and include a narrative.

5. Rapid Reviews

The rapid review is essentially a fast-tracked version of the systematic review. Rapid reviews are typically done when policymakers are working within a specific, tight timeframe and need a quick turnaround on their research question. As a result, some critical systematic review steps are either modified or skipped entirely in a rapid review. In rapid reviews, quality assessment typically gets modified and standards are adjusted. For example, we might see less comprehensive search strategies, reduced use of grey literature (which can be challenging to find and process), more basic data extraction and analysis, and only simple quality appraisal. Since rapid review methods leave out important steps in the review process and other systematic review types offer a more comprehensive review, it is recommended to use this review process only when the analysis needs to be done in a tight time frame. Results from a rapid review are often presented in a narrative and tabular format.

6. Qualitative Reviews

A qualitative review looks at themes and concepts across individual qualitative studies. Qualitative reviews may also be known as “meta synthesis” or “qualitative evidence synthesis.” Qualitative reviews employ quality assessment on the analysis, but unlike systematic reviews, where the assessment is done to determine inclusion or exclusion, quality assessment in a qualitative review is used to mediate messages. Naturally, this type of review uses a narrative approach to reporting results, but often include tables and diagrams.

(Video) Steps of a Systematic Review

7. State-of-the-Art Reviews

While most systematic reviews include the entire scope of research literature available on a particular topic, the state-of-the-art review generally focuses on recently published literature to assess current matters. A state-of-the-art review will often highlight new ideas or gaps in research with no official quality assessment. State-of-the-art is also a term used heavily in the medical device space. For researchers working on clinical evaluation reports (CERs), establishing “state-of-the-art” means describing “what is currently and generally considered standard of care, or best practice, for the medical condition or treatment for which the device is used.” Although state-of-the-art is typically considered just one section of the CER, it’s important to note that this type of review has an impact on all other aspects of the CER and if the state-of-the-art section fails, the entire report could also be invalidated. In general, state-of-the-art reviews tend to report results using both narrative forms and a tabular component.

8. Mixed Study Reviews

When more than one research method is used to perform an analysis, it’s known as a mixed study review. In most cases, a mixed study review involves combining multiple systematic review methods to synthesize different types of research. An example of this would be combining evidence from quantitative and qualitative research studies. Another characteristic of a mixed study review is the use of appraisal tools or specific appraisal processes compared to other types of reviews. Since these reviews incorporate multiple different study types, the reporting of the results may include narrative, graphical, and tabular components.

Bonus Review Type: Meta Analysis

Although this isn’t technically a type of systematic review, we would be remiss to not mention meta analysis in this post. At one point some teams used the terms meta analysis and systematic review interchangeably. Meta analysis is now more commonly used to describe a quantitative synthesis method. Meta analysis is the process of statistically combining and comparing quantitative studies. However, in many research fields, meta analysis is no longer considered a type of review. Instead, researchers use meta analysis to describe the statistical technique used to combine research results within a systematic review, but it can also be used in research that was not collected systematically.

Using These Types of Review Methods for Your Research Studies

Applying a systematic approach to research and analysis minimizes bias in study selection and synthesis to best inform decision-making. Additionally, applying systematic methods to research also improves the transparency and reproducibility of the research process, which is critical to maximize review utility.

(Video) What is a systematic review? | Explained | Quick and Easy

Systematic review software like DistillerSR offers a highly configurable platform to conduct all types of systematic review methods. Regardless of your industry or the type of review you perform, DistillerSR enables teams to complete reviews efficiently and effectively according to their protocol. DistillerSR automates manual steps in the review process so that you can complete the analysis in a timely manner while not compromising the review quality. Want to see DistillerSR systematic review software in action? Request a free demo and see how DistillerSR can be easily configured to your preferred systematic review type.

(Video) What type of Systematic Review should I conduct?


What are the different types of systematic reviews? ›

Five other types of systematic reviews
  • Scoping review. A scoping review is a preliminary assessment of the potential size and scope of available research literature. ...
  • Rapid review. ...
  • Narrative review. ...
  • Meta-analysis. ...
  • Mixed methods/mixed studies. ...
  • Further reading.

What are the different types of reviews? ›

What are the different types of review?
  • Systematic literature reviews (SLRs) ...
  • Rapid reviews. ...
  • Umbrella reviews or Overview of reviews. ...
  • Scoping reviews. ...
  • Literature reviews or narrative reviews.
Jun 28, 2022

What are the stages of a systematic review? ›

Systematic review/meta-analysis steps include development of research question and its validation, forming criteria, search strategy, searching databases, importing all results to a library and exporting to an excel sheet, protocol writing and registration, title and abstract screening, full-text screening, manual ...

What are the 6 requirements of the systematic review of literature? ›

This guide provides an overview of the steps required for systematic reviews:
  • Identify your research question.
  • Develop your protocol.
  • Conduct systematic searches (including the search strategy, text mining, choosing databases, documenting and reviewing.
  • Screening.
  • Critical appraisal.
  • Data extraction and synthesis.

What are systematic reviews in research? ›

A systematic review is a summary of the medical literature that uses explicit and reproducible methods to systematically search, critically appraise, and synthesize on a specific issue. It synthesizes the results of multiple primary studies related to each other by using strategies that reduce biases and random errors.

What are the main types of reviews in testing? ›

There are mainly Three Types of Reviews in a Software Testing.
  • Software Peer Reviews: ...
  • Software Management Reviews: ...
  • Software Audit Reviews:
Feb 9, 2020

What are the four major types of reviews? ›

Over the years, numerous types of literature reviews have emerged, but the four main types are traditional or narrative, systematic, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis.

Which type of research review is the most commonly used? ›

A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences.

What are the 8 steps in reviewing a literature? ›

Steps in the Literature Review Process
  • Define the research question (for more) ...
  • Determine inclusion/exclusion criteria. ...
  • Choose databases and conduct the search. ...
  • Review your results. ...
  • Synthesize the information gathered. ...
  • Analyze the information gathered. ...
  • Write the literature review.
Oct 26, 2022

What is the first step of 8 stages in the research process *? ›

Step 1: Identify the Problem

The first step in the process is to identify a problem or develop a research question.

What is the main purpose of a systematic review? ›

The purpose of a systematic review is to deliver a meticulous summary of all the available primary research in response to a research question. A systematic review uses all the existing research and is sometime called 'secondary research' (research on research).

What are the 10 steps to review literature? ›

  • Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience.
  • Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature.
  • Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading.
  • Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write.
  • Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest.
  • Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent.
  • Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure.
Jul 18, 2013

What are the 5 requirements of the systematic review of literature? ›

  • Step 1: Framing questions for a review. ...
  • Step 2: Identifying relevant work. ...
  • Step 3: Assessing the quality of studies. ...
  • Step 4: Summarizing the evidence. ...
  • Step 5: Interpreting the findings.

What are the key features of a systematic review? ›

The key characteristics of a systematic review are: a clearly defined question with inclusion & exclusion criteria; rigorous & systematic search of the literature; critical appraisal of included studies; data extraction and management; analysis & interpretation of results; and report for publication.

What are the methods for systematic literature review? ›

The usual method has four basic steps: search (define searching string and types of databases), appraisal (pre-defined literature inclusion and exclusion, and quality assessment criteria), synthesis (extract and categorized the data), and analysis (narrate the result and finally reach into conclusion) (SALSA).

What are the elements of a review? ›

Key Elements of a Review
  • A clearly-focussed clinical or other research question.
  • A Protocol setting out the frame of reference for the Review.
  • A recognized reporting method such as PRISMA.
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria for results found in the search.
Jan 13, 2023

Are systematic reviews quantitative or qualitative? ›

A systematic review can be qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of the two. The approach that is chosen is determined by the research question and the scope of the research. When qualitative and quantitative techniques are used together in a given study, it is called a mixed method.

How many reviews are there in test? ›

In Test cricket, each team has TWO reviews per innings. In ODI cricket and T20 cricket, each team has ONE review per innings.

How many main types of testing are there? ›

There are three main ways you can do testing: manual, automated, and continuous. Let us take a closer look at each option. Manual testing is the most hands-on type of testing and is employed by every team at some point.

Which are the most common types of code reviews? ›

5 Main Types of Code Reviews
  1. Audits. Typically led by an external and independent auditor to evaluate compliance to laws, regulations, standards and guidelines. ...
  2. Management reviews. ...
  3. Technical code reviews. ...
  4. Inspections. ...
  5. Walkthroughs.

What are the 4 stages of literature review? ›

Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review. Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration. Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research. Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous ...

What are the 4 basic characteristics of a review literature? ›

Characteristics of an effective literature review

Outlining important research trends. Assessing strengths and weaknesses (of individual studies as well the existing research as a whole). Identifying potential gaps in knowledge. Establishing a need for current and/or future research projects.

What are the 4 parts of review of related literature and studies? ›

It helps to deconstruct the literature review into a four-part process, including: 1) Developing a Topic; 2) Searching the Literature; 3) Narrowing the Scope; and 4) Synthesizing Prior Research. Here are some tips to help students navigate each part of the process.

What is the highest form of systematic review? ›

RCTs are given the highest level because they are designed to be unbiased and have less risk of systematic errors. For example, by randomly allocating subjects to two or more treatment groups, these types of studies also randomize confounding factors that may bias results.

How many studies should be included in a systematic review? ›

Generally, you'll want to aim to have at least two to three studies assessed with a systematic review critical appraisal tool if your research question deals with a topic that already has a good amount of available literature.

Which data is used for systematic review? ›

Journal articles are the source of the majority of data included in systematic reviews. Note that a study can be reported in multiple journal articles, each focusing on some aspect of the study (e.g. design, main results, and other results). Conference abstracts are commonly available.

What are the 7 steps in writing a literature review? ›

7 easy steps to do a literature review
  • Define your research scope. ...
  • Plan your research approach. ...
  • Search strategically: be efficient but thorough. ...
  • Manage your literature with online tools. ...
  • Critical reading and analysis. ...
  • Benchmark from other literature reviews. ...
  • Assemble the texts and write.
Jun 4, 2020

What are the 5 steps in writing a review of related literature and studies? ›

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:
  • Search for relevant literature.
  • Evaluate sources.
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps.
  • Outline the structure.
  • Write your literature review.
Jan 2, 2023

What are the stages of research methodology? ›

Steps of the research process
  • Step 1: Identify the Problem. ...
  • Step 2: Review the Literature. ...
  • Step 3: Clarify the Problem. ...
  • Step 4: Clearly Define Terms and Concepts. ...
  • Step 5: Define the Population. ...
  • Step 6: Develop the Instrumentation Plan. ...
  • Step 7: Collect Data. ...
  • Step 8: Analyze the Data.

What are the 8 steps of a research paper? ›

A Beginners Guide To Research Papers: 8 Steps You Should Follow
  • Narrow Down A Topic. ...
  • Clearly Define Your Task. ...
  • Research Extensively. ...
  • Find Credible Sources. ...
  • Organize The Information. ...
  • Formulate An Argument Or Thesis. ...
  • Create The Outline Of Your Paper. ...
  • Write, Edit & Submit.
Oct 29, 2020

What are the 8 steps in scientific research? ›

Steps of the scientific method
  • Make an observation or ask a question. ...
  • Gather background information. ...
  • Create a hypothesis. ...
  • Create a prediction and perform a test. ...
  • Analyze the results and draw a conclusion. ...
  • Share the conclusion or decide what question to ask next: Document the results of your experiment.

What is 8s basic research? ›

Basic research is systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.

What is a systematic review an example of? ›

A systematic review is a type of review that uses repeatable methods to find, select, and synthesize all available evidence. It answers a clearly formulated research question and explicitly states the methods used to arrive at the answer. Example: Systematic review In 2008, Dr.

Why are systematic reviews the best evidence? ›

Well done systematic reviews, with or without an included meta-analysis, are generally considered to provide the best evidence for all question types as they are based on the findings of multiple studies that were identified in comprehensive, systematic literature searches.

What is the first stage of a systematic review? ›

The stages of a systematic review may vary slightly depending on the discipline and study types to be included but generally follow a series of steps outlined as follows: Clarifying the problem, defining the research question and its boundaries, and setting out criteria for studies to be included in the review.

What are the 9 steps of research process? ›

Research Process
  1. Selecting the research area. ...
  2. Formulating research aim, objectives and research questions or developing hypotheses. ...
  3. Conducting the literature review. ...
  4. Selecting data collection methods. ...
  5. Collecting the primary data. ...
  6. Data analysis. ...
  7. Reaching conclusions. ...
  8. Completing the research.

What are the 10 steps of research? ›

A list of ten steps
  • STEP 1: Formulate your question.
  • STEP 2: Get background information.
  • STEP 3: Refine your search topic.
  • STEP 4: Consider your resource options.
  • STEP 5: Select the appropriate tool.
  • STEP 6: Use the tool.
  • STEP 7: Locate your materials.
  • STEP 8: Analyze your materials.

What are the 6 parts of literature? ›

what are the elements of literature? This article will examine the following elements: plot, setting, character, point-of-view, theme, and tone.

How do I choose a systematic review topic? ›

  1. Choose a topic.
  2. Make sure you can phrase your topic as an answerable question.
  3. Review the existing literature to check what has been done on your topic already.
  4. Decide which types of documents you will and will not include in your systematic review to create your inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Sep 8, 2021

What are keywords in systematic review? ›

Keywords are terms that are used by authors to refer to the key concepts in your research question, and which appear in database records (e.g. title/abstract) or article full-text, but aren't taken from formal controlled vocabulary such as the Medical Subject Headings.

What are the 4 types of research design? ›

There are four main types of Quantitative research: Descriptive, Correlational, Causal-Comparative/Quasi-Experimental, and Experimental Research. attempts to establish cause- effect relationships among the variables. These types of design are very similar to true experiments, but with some key differences.

What are 3 differences between literature reviews and systematic reviews? ›

Know the Difference! Systematic Review vs. Literature Review
Systematic ReviewLiterature Review
GoalsAnswers a focused clinical question Eliminate biasProvide summary or overview of topic
QuestionClearly defined and answerable clinical question Recommend using PICO as a guideCan be a general topic or a specific question
6 more rows
Sep 16, 2022

What are the three types of IRB review? ›

IRB must review all projects that meet the definition of research and that involve human subjects prior to any data collection to determine the appropriate level of review, and, as appropriate, approve them. There are three major types of review: Exempt, Expedited, and Full.

What are the 8 types of literature? ›

Literary Genres
  • Drama. Stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action.
  • Fable. ...
  • Fairy Tale. ...
  • Fantasy. ...
  • Fiction. ...
  • Fiction in Verse. ...
  • Folklore. ...
  • Historical Fiction.

What are the 8 types of research? ›

Classification of Types of Research
  • Theoretical Research. ...
  • Applied Research. ...
  • Exploratory Research. ...
  • Descriptive Research. ...
  • Explanatory Research. ...
  • Qualitative Research. ...
  • Quantitative Research. ...
  • Experimental Research.
Oct 2, 2020

What are the 8 types of research design? ›

Creating a research topic explains the type of research (experimental, survey research, correlational, semi-experimental, review) and its sub-type (experimental design, research problem, descriptive case-study).

What are the 7 types of research design? ›

  • General Structure and Writing Style.
  • Action Research Design.
  • Case Study Design.
  • Causal Design.
  • Cohort Design.
  • Cross-Sectional Design.
  • Descriptive Design.
  • Experimental Design.
Dec 8, 2022

What are 2 key features of a systematic review? ›

Key components of a systematic review include: Systematic and extensive searches to identify all the relevant published and unpublished literature. Study selection according to predefined eligibility criteria.

What are the four key components of a systematic review? ›

These include structuring a research question, searching and appraising the literature, data extraction, analysis and synthesis, and reporting the results.

What are the 3 levels of literature review? ›

three steps of the proposed literature review process are: 1) Inputs, 2) Processing, and 3) Outputs.

What are the 3 parts of literature review? ›

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at least three basic elements: an introduction or background information section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and, finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.


1. An Introduction to Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: Everything you need to know in 59 minutes
(Michael Fralick)
2. Part 1 : Introduction to Systematic Reviews (Systematic Review Workshop Series)
(University of Manitoba Libraries)
3. Types of Reviews
(Schulich Library McGill)
4. Evidence synthesis webinar 7: Data synthesis in qualitative and quantitative systematic reviews
(School of Medicine)
5. Conducting a Systematic Literature Review
(Research Shorts)
6. Intro to systematic reviews
(Centre For Postgraduate Studies)
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