What type of review is right for me?
Today there are many types of reviews or evidence synthesis that can be published. Sometimes the term “systematic review” is mistakenly used when what is really required is a different type of evidence synthesis. If you are not sure what type of review is best for you, this guide might help you.
Whatever type of review you decide that you are going to produce, the Knowledge and Library Services are here to support you in a consulting or co-authoring capacity.
See the decision tree below to help you decide what kind of work you want to produce:
Types of evidence synthesis
- Systematically and transparently collects and categorises existing evidence on a broad question of scientific, policy or management importance.
- Compares, evaluates, and synthesises evidence in a search for the effect of an intervention.
- Time-intensive and often take months to a year or more to complete.
- The most commonly referred to type of evidence synthesis. Sometimes confused as a blanket term for other types of reviews.
- A broad term referring to reviews with a wide scope and non-standardised methodology.
- Search strategies, comprehensiveness, and time range covered will vary and do not follow an established protocol
Scoping Review or Evidence Map
- Systematically and transparently collect and categorise existing evidence on a broad question of scientific, policy or management importance.
- Seeks to identify research gaps and opportunities for evidence synthesis rather than searching for the effect of an intervention.
- May critically evaluate existing evidence, but does not attempt to synthesise the results in the way a systematic review would. (see EE Journal and CIFOR)
- May take longer than a systematic review.
- See PRISMA for Scoping Reviews, JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis Chapter 11
- Applies Systematic Review methodology within a time-constrained setting.
- Employs methodological “shortcuts” (limiting search terms for example) at the risk of introducing bias.
- Useful for addressing issues needing quick decisions, such as developing policy recommendations.
- See Evidence Summaries: The Evolution of a Rapid Review Approach, What are Rapid Reviews? (JBI Video),
- Reviews other systematic reviews on a topic.
- Often defines a broader question than is typical of a traditional systematic review.
- Most useful when there are competing interventions to consider.
- See JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis Chapter 10
- Statistical technique for combining the findings from disparate quantitative studies.
- Uses statistical methods to objectively evaluate, synthesize, and summarize results.
- May be conducted independently or as part of a systematic review.
*Adapted from the Cornell University Library Guide
Useful articles and resources
How a librarian can help you
- Provide background information and resources on the systematic review process
- Recommend databases, protocol registration platforms, and citation management software
- Suggest edits for your search strategy
Co-Author (currently we do not have capacity to offer this service)
- Select databases and grey literature resources
- Write the search strategy
- Translate searches to syntax of all databases
- Perform searches and export them to citation management software
- Perform de-duplication, or train your team on the process
- Write a search methodology and results report which can be used for publication
- Please note we do not assist with screening results
A systematic review protocol should be prepared before a review is started and used as a guide to carry out the review. It reduces the impact of review authors’ biases, promotes transparency of methods and processes, reduces the potential for duplication, allows peer review of the planned methods before they have been completed, and offers an opportunity for the review team to plan resources and logistics for undertaking the review itself.
Checklists for systematic reviews
Finding the literature for your review
We strongly recommend using our library service to conduct the search for your systematic review. We will work with you to capture the concepts of your review question and turn this into a search strategy which we will apply across multiple databases and send you the de-duplicated results. We will ensure that the search meets PRISMA standards and send you a detailed search report which can be included in your review. Contact us to discuss your systematic review.
If you prefer to do your own searching, please refer to our literature searching guide for help and information.
Grey Literature – Useful Sources
MedNar is a free, medically-focused deep web search engine that uses advanced search technology to accelerate your research with a search of authoritative public and deep web resources, including grey literature.
When to stop searching
Managing your search results
Reference managers are tools which allow you to import references from websites and databases, making it easy to keep them all together and insert into your projects with your chosen referencing style. Screening tools allow you to work collaboratively with your team to decide which articles you will include in your review and keep a record of your decisions.
Sciwheel is an easy-to-use cloud-based reference manager that stores all your projects online so you can login from anywhere. A free account gives you unlimited references in up to 3 projects. Premium access is also available for unlimited projects.
- Browser plugin to instantly save references and PDFs from websites
- Extensions for MS Word and Google docs to easily import references into your work
- Highlight and add notes to PDFs and webpages
- App available to manage your references, make notes, and read articles on the go
- Easy collaboration with co-authors
For helpful videos on how to use Sciwheel visit their help page here.
Deduklick is a free reliable and transparent deduplication AI tool to remove duplicate records retrieved for systematic review searches with maximum precision in few minutes.
Rayyan is a free and easy-to-use online tool which helps you and your team to screen literature for inclusion in your review. It allows you to work collaboratively to include and reject articles with help from natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to speed you through the process. You can also work on the go with the Rayyan mobile app.
Covidence is a subscription-based collaborative online tool to assist with screening results to be included in your review. Barts Knolwedge and Library Services does not subscribe to it.
Other free and paid for tools are available online.
Systematic Review Accelerator has a range of tools to help speed up the searching and refining stages of your review. It includes a deduplication tool, collaborative screening tools, and a search translator for different databases.
Other free and paid for reference management software is available online.