University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Research Help

Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

A systematic review seeks to answer a specific research question by analyzing and synthesizing previously published research. A systematic review uses specific, stated criteria to identify relevant research and systematic, explicit methods to minimize bias.

Process Overview

  1. Create a review team with members who have expertise in the appropriate topic areas, systematic review methods, the literature search process, and quantitative analysis. 
  2. Formulate a precise research question that fills an information gap and does not duplicate other efforts. 
  3. Develop a systematic review protocol that is peer-reviewed and made publicly available. The protocol should identify the reporting guidelines to be used, such as PRISMA. 
  4. Develop and document a search strategy. Use the Research by Subject Guide that most closely matches the review topic to identify the best databases and other sources of research. You can also refer to our Getting Started and Effective Searching pages for general guidance on research basics.
  5. Screen results to determine if they meet your inclusion criteria. At least two researchers should be involved in the article review and data extraction process to reduce bias and errors.  
  6. Assess included studies for bias. This is called an appraisal, a risk of bias assessment, or a quality assessment.
  7. Perform an analysis of research data. If studies are of a similar design, you may be able to use statistical methods to perform a meta-analysis. If your studies are not of a similar design, you will need to use a descriptive analysis.
  8. Present the main findings of your evidence analysis and synthesis. Finished reports should include all the steps undertaken and provide enough detail so that the review could be reproduced.

A systematic review takes an average of 18 months or 1139 hours to prepare – be sure to allow enough time! Your research question, timeline, or resources may be better suited for another type of review

There are specialized tools and resources to assiste with each step of the systematic review process.

Other Review Types

There are other types of reviews that synthesize research with varying degrees of rigor. To help decide, use the What Type of Review is Right for You decision tree and/or What Review is Right for You website.

Distinguish between different types of reviews and which type is the best fit for your research.

Other Review Types include:

Traditional Reviews
Synthesize evidence by focusing on a topic and/or time period without explicitly adhering to methodology and reporting guidelines and without necessarily being explicit about the methods used. Examples include: narrative review, narrative summary, critical review, integrative review, state-of-the-art review.
Review of Reviews
Compile evidence from multiple reviews into one document, generally following the same methods and reporting standards as systematic reviews. Examples include: review of reviews, overview, umbrella review.
Rapid Reviews
Produce information in a short period of time by abbreviating or omitting processes normally followed for systematic reviews; any modifications to the process must be explicitly declared. Examples include: rapid review, rapid evidence assessment, rapid realist review.
Qualitative Reviews
Synthesize findings from qualitative studies; may or may not use systematic review methods and reporting guidelines. Examples include: experiential reviews, qualitative evidence synthesis, qualitative systematic reviews, qualitative meta-synthesis, qualitative research synthesis, meta-interpretation, meta-aggregation, meta-study, meta-narrative review.
Mixed Methods Reviews
Integrate mixed qualitative and quantitative data, or incorporate mixed methods primary studies. Examples include: mixed methods review, mixed methods synthesis, Bayesian meta-analysis, critical interpretive synthesis, narrative synthesis.
Purpose-Specific Reviews
All review types should be selected appropriately according to purpose; here, purpose‐specific refers to the degree of tailoring required to meet a specific single purpose, making it more challenging to adapt the review type for generic use. Examples include: scoping review, mapping review, methodological review, systematic search and review, systematized review, content synthesis, content analysis, policy review, technology assessment review.

Questions & Help

Undertaking a Systematic Review is a rewarding yet time consuming and intense endeavor. UNE Library Services’ Research & Teaching Librarians will gladly assist with search tips, database options, and helpful resources. At this time we do not have the staff resources to provide a librarian as a member of a systematic review team.