top of page

About LitR-Ex

This website—and the associated peer-reviewed, open-access publications—arose out of tear-your-hair-out frustration. We are academics working in an interdisciplinary field (i.e., medical and health professions education). Researchers in our field come from many different disciplines (e.g., medicine, rhetoric, engineering, sociology). Consequently, we all draw from different literature review traditions, and we need to translate our discipline-based knowledge synthesis expectations to colleagues from different scientific traditions.

All too often, that work is an exercise in futility.


Because some approaches to science are so commonly lauded that literature reviews developed in other traditions are dismissed as non-scientific. For instance:

  • We’ve tried to publish critical narrative literature reviews, only to a desk-rejection from an editor because the synthesis utterly failed to adhere to PRISMA guidelines (Hello?! Prisma is for systematic reviews).

  • We’ve rigorously completed state-of-the-art literature reviews, only to have reviewers dismiss the findings as “merely an opinion piece suitable only for publication as a commentary.” (One day we’ll get even, Reviewer 2!)

Another bang-your-head-against-a-wall frustration: we can’t always find resources that clearly explain, justify, and delineate the process of different types of literature reviews.

Yes, you’ll find a million how-to guides for systematic reviews.

But how about critical narrative reviews?

Need methodological guidance to conduct that review?

Good luck. It isn’t out there.

Out of these frustrations, arose a mission:

To explain, disseminate, and promote different kinds of literature reviews so that academics can harness all these forms of knowledge synthesis to inform their research efforts.

Three of us (Anna, Robin, and Lara) mapped out a plan. We identified 8 different types of literature reviews that we thought would be useful to academics. We secured the support of an open-access academic journal (i.e., Journal of Graduate Medical Education) to publish these manuscripts. We found a collection of authors who were willing to take on the task of writing explanations for these 8 review types:

  1. Systematic reviews

  2. Realist reviews

  3. Narrative reviews

  4. Scoping reviews

  5. State-of-the-art reviews

  6. Meta-ethnograhic reviews

  7. Critical reviews

  8. Theory integrative reviews

What this website offers is the result of that collaborative work. We found an expert in knowledge implementation (Deena) and 4 other collaborators (Lauren, Kristina, Tony and Jon) to construct this site as the best tool that is publicly and freely available to anyone doing literature review work.

Here, for each of the 8 types of literature reviews, you will find details and links to peer-reviewed journal manuscripts on (a) the epistemological and ontological underpinning of the synthesis approach and (b) how-to guidelines for conducting and adjudicating the rigor of each review type. We also created (c) an executive summary infographic for each review type.

To make sure everyone has all the tools needed to conduct a literature review, we also commissioned:

  • Tips and tricks guide from academic librarians on how to conduct successful literature reviews


  • A decision tree to guide the choice of which review type is right for the knowledge you want to build via the literature review.

We hope that this site alleviates your frustration.

bottom of page