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literature review methodologies

Which review type is best to answer your research question(s)?

* is an evolving innovation. Additional literature review types will be included, as appropriate.


Rigorous process to answer a specific (narrow) research question. Answers the "what" about a phenomenon, but not the "how" and "why." Resource and time intensive.


Explores how and why outcomes of an intervention take their form by specifically exploring contexts and mechanisms. Reporting requires explicit description of contexts, mechanisms, and outcomes.


Flexible yet rigorous approach to creating a rich description or overview about a topic. Researcher reflexivity is paramount to understand how their experiences shaped their interpretations in the review.


Systematic approach to capturing information about the current state of knowledge and/or identifying gaps in the literature. While similar to other review types, scoping reviews produce a clear picture of the "lay of the land."


Consolidates evidence from the past and present to develop suggestions of what can happen next, in the future.


Uses original interpretations from a series of primary qualitative studies to synthesize a new understanding of phenomena. Does not include quantitative data.


Requires creativity, flexibility, and expert judgement (over systematicity) to explore current research and clinical practices and propose a modified or new way forward.


Draws on existing theories from diverse disciplines to identify which theory is more relevant to a particular context, or propose a modified or new theory to explain phenomena.

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