Literature Reviews, Introduction to Different Types of

There are many different types of literature reviews, each with its own approach, analysis, and purpose. To confuse matters, these types aren't named consistently. The following are some of the more common types of literature reviews.

These are more rigorous, with some level of appraisal:

  • The Systematic Review is important to health care and medical trials, and other subjects where methodology and data are important. Through rigorous review and analysis of literature that meets a specific criteria, the systematic review identifies and compares answers to health care related questions. The systematic review may include meta-analysis and meta-synthesis, which leads us to...
  • The Quantitative or Qualitative Meta-analysis Review can both make up the whole or part of systematic review(s). Both are thorough and comprehensive in condensing and making sense of a large body of research. The quantitative meta-analysis reviews quantitative research, is objective, and includes statistical analysis. The qualitative meta-analysis reviews qualitative research, is subjective (or evaluative, or interpretive), and identifies new themes or concepts.

These don't always include a formal assessment or analysis:

  • The Literature Review (see our Literature Review video) or Narrative Review often appears as a chapter in a thesis or dissertation. It describes what related research has already been conducted, how it informs the thesis, and how the thesis fits into the research in the field. (See for more information.)
  • The Critical Review is like a literature review, but requires a more detailed examination of the literature, in order to compare and evaluate a number of perspectives.
  • The Scoping Review is often used at the beginning of an article, dissertation or research proposal. It is conducted before the research begins, and sets the stage for this research by highlighting gaps in the literature, and explaining the need for the research about to be conducted, which is presented in the remainder of the article.
  • The Conceptual Review groups articles according to concepts, or categories, or themes. It identifies the current 'understanding' of the given research topic, discusses how this understanding was reached, and attempts to determine whether a greater understanding can be suggested. It provides a snapshot of where things are with this particular field of research.
  • The State-of-the-Art Review is conducted periodically, with a focus on the most recent research. It describes what is currently known, understood, or agreed upon regarding the research topic, and highlights where are there still disagreements.

Source: Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108.

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