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Database Search Tips

This guide will help get you started in some of our most popular databases! Happy searching! Let us know if we can help.

Types of Reviews

There are many types of evidence synthesis projects, including systematic reviews as well as others. The review type selection is dependent on the research question, the research team's time and ability, and the parameters of the assignment or journal you are submitting to for publication,

Librarians can help your team determine which review type might be appropriate for your project, what databases to search, and how to manage your results.


Label Description Search
Critical review

Aims to demonstrate writer has extensively researched literature and critically evaluated its quality. Goes beyond mere description to include degree of analysis and conceptual innovation. Typically results in hypothesis or mode

Seeks to identify most significant items in the field

Literature review

Generic term: published materials that provide examination of recent or current literature. Can cover wide range of subjects at various levels of completeness and comprehensiveness. May include research findings

May or may not include comprehensive searching

Mapping review/ systematic map

Map out and categorize existing literature from which to commission further reviews and/or primary research by identifying gaps in research literature

Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints


Technique that statistically combines the results of quantitative studies to provide a more precise effect of the results

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching. May use funnel plot to assess completeness

Mixed studies review/mixed methods review

Refers to any combination of methods where one significant component is a literature review (usually systematic). Within a review context it refers to a combination of review approaches for example combining quantitative with qualitative research or outcome with process studies

Requires either very sensitive search to retrieve all studies or separately conceived quantitative and qualitative strategies


Generic term: summary of the [medical] literature that attempts to survey the literature and describe its characteristics

May or may not include comprehensive searching (depends whether systematic overview or not)

Qualitative systematic review/qualitative evidence synthesis

Method for integrating or comparing the findings from qualitative studies. It looks for ‘themes’ or ‘constructs’ that lie in or across individual qualitative studies

May employ selective or purposive sampling

Rapid review

Assessment of what is already known about a policy or practice issue, by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research

Completeness of searching determined by time constraints

Scoping review

Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research)

Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints. May include research in progress

State-of-the-art review

Tend to address more current matters in contrast to other combined retrospective and current approaches. May offer new perspectives

Aims for comprehensive searching of current literature

Systematic review

Seeks to systematically search for, appraise and synthesis research evidence, often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching

Systematic search and review

Combines strengths of critical review with a comprehensive search process. Typically addresses broad questions to produce ‘best evidence synthesis’

Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive searching

Systematized review

Attempt to include elements of systematic review process while stopping short of systematic review. Typically conducted as postgraduate student assignment

May or may not include comprehensive searching

Umbrella review

Specifically refers to review compiling evidence from multiple reviews into one accessible and usable document. Focuses on broad condition or problem for which there are competing interventions and highlights reviews that address these interventions and their results

Identification of component reviews, but no search for primary studies

Adapted from Grant, M. J. and Booth, A. (2009), A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26: 91-108. doi:10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x