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Literature Reviews, Critiquing, Summarizing and Synthesizing Literature

Learning about Study Designs

Types of Reviews

Types of Reviews:

Critically Appraised Topic (CATs) : A critically appraised topic (or CAT) is a short summary of evidence on a topic of interest, usually focussed around a clinical question. A CAT is like a shorter and less rigorous version of a systematic review, summarising the best available research evidence on a topic.

Integrative Review: A review via a systematic approach that uses a detailed search strategy to find relevant evidence to answer a targeted clinical question. Evidence can come from RCTs, observational studies, qualitative research, clinical experts, and other types of evidence. Does not use summary statistics.

Meta-analysis: a quantitative statistical analysis of several separate but similar experiments or studies in order to test the pooled data for statistical significance.

Narrative or literature Review: Critical research summary on a topic of interest, often to put a research problem into context. Captures a “snapshot” of the clinical problem or issue.

Systematic Review: Comprehensive search strategies and rigorous research appraisal methods surrounding a clinical issue or question. Evidence is primarily based upon RCTs. Used to summarize, appraise, & communicate contradictory results or unmanageable amounts of research.

Sources: ; ;


Lit Review Types -- comparing

Literature Review vs Systematic Revew -- Chart

Chart explaining differences. Chart by L. Kysh, MLIS from U. Ca

Comparing --- Systematic Review vs Literature Review

What is the difference between a literature review and a systematic review?

Last Updated: Mar 09, 2011 


The difference between a literature review and a systematic review can vary a bit across disciplines, but for the most part, a stand alone article that is a literature review (every primary research article has a little lit. review at its beginning to give background to its research) looks at many - say 10 to 20 - primary research articles and summarizes and evaluates them so that when you read that one article, you really are finding out about many studies. You can find these in Solar, Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, etc.
A systematic review is more encompassing and has the purpose of looking at all the research published for a given topic and then also summarizing and evaluating, but with the added purpose of trying to give a best practice that all this research supports. These are best found in the Cochrane Library database and are known as the famous "Cochrane Review." You can also find these in the other databases and Cochrane Library does have other articles in there as well.

Source: The College of St. Scholastica,

Systematic Review & Meta Analysis