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Review Types: Selecting a Review Type

This guide provides information and resources on the types of research as well as supporting works including literature reviews.

Selecting a Review Type: An Introduction

This page provides basic definitions to aid in deciding the type of review to pursue and how types of evidence and study designs inform this decision process.

Literature Reviews

Literature review is an analysis of published scholarly research on a topic. It is primarily to:

  • synthesize what is known on a topic or explain the background of a research
  • identify critical gaps, controversies, or flawed methodology or theoretical approaches
  • suggest unexplored ideas or further studies

Scoping Reviews

Scoping reviews identify and examine the literature on a topic to provide a synthesis of a research question. A scoping review can be conducted in preparation of a systematic review. They are designed:

  • to identify knowledge gaps or the scope of a body of literature
  • to clarify concepts
  • to investigate research conduct

Systematic Reviews

Systematic Reviews provide a synthesis of published studies that inform practitioners for better patient outcomes and policy makers with efficient health services. They are most useful

  • when there is a large body of published studies pertaining to a specific question
  • when multiple published studies show contradictory or uncertain outcomes

They require a transparent and reproducible search methodology.

When appropriate a systematic review can include a meta-analysis. This is when data from multiple studies can be statistically synthesized and represented with a forest plot. Here is a short video that explains more, https://youtu.be/qc7M1r45jwc 

Hierarchy of Evidence

Consider the Hierarchy of Evidence Pyramid in selecting the type of review appropriate for the stage of your research project.

Hierarchy of Evidence Pyramid
Diagram created by Bradley A. Long. https://scholarsphere.psu.edu/resources/d3368641-dc10-4d6c-bf72-4ac8dec7eb96

Study Design Video

This video explains the Meta-Analysis of Multiple Randomized Trials (1:23); Randomized Trials (2:20); Prospective Cohort Studies (4:02); Case-Control Studies (5:00); Case Series (6:03); and Cross-Sectional Studies (6:13).

Research Study Designs

These are the Suggested Research Design(s) based on a Clinical Question

Questions to Consider

Study Design Ebooks