Types of reviews
A PhD or a Masters by Research thesis will include a chapter devoted to a review of the literature. This type of review is known as a traditional or narrative review, or simply a literature review.
The following table outlines the different features of a systematic review and a traditional literature review.
|Features||Systematic review||Literature review|
|Aim||Tightly specified objectives to answer a specific research question||Gain a broad understanding and description of a field|
|Scope||Narrow focus||Big picture|
|Planning the review||Transparent process with documented audit trail defined in a protocol||Nothing defined, allows for creativity and exploration|
|Searches||Rigorous and comprehensive search for ALL studies, explicit search strategy across numerous sources||Searching is probing, moving from study to study, following-up leads|
|Study selection||Predetermined criteria for including and excluding studies uniformly applied||Selection is variable as determined by the reviewer|
|Appraisal||Checklists to assess the quality of studies||Based on the reviewer’s opinion|
|Synthesis||Tabular format with short summary answers||Discursive|
|Methodology||Must be presented for transparency||Not necessarily provided|
|Inferences||Based on all available evidence||Based on a sample of the evidence|
|Timeline||Months to years (average 18 months)||Weeks to months|
|Authors||Three or more||One or more|
|Value||Connects practising clinicians to high-quality evidence; Informs evidence-based practice||Provides a summary of literature on a topic|
Some brief information about other types of reviews, such as scoping reviews, rapid reviews, and meta-analyses is available from the online library guide: Systematic Reviews in Health.
Watch the following short video to learn about the difference between a systematic review and a meta-analysis.
The Difference Between a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis (4:44 mins) by UniSA Library (YouTube)