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Reviewing Research: Literature Reviews, Scoping Reviews, Systematic Reviews: Differentiating the Three Review Types

A guide to literature reviews, scoping reviews, and systematic reviews for the School of Architecture & Planning
Last Updated: May 17, 2024 11:33 AM

The Differences in the Review Types

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.  The objective of this study is to provide descriptive insight into the most common types of reviews, with illustrative examples from health and health information domains.

Literature Reviews

Literature Review: it is a product and a process.

As a product, it is a carefully written examination, interpretation, evaluation, and synthesis of the published literature related to your topic. It focuses on what is known about your topic and what methodologies, models, theories, and concepts have been applied to it by others.

The process is what is involved in conducting a review of the literature.

  • It is ongoing
  • It is iterative (repetitive)
  • It involves searching for and finding relevant literature.
  • It includes keeping track of your references and preparing and formatting them for the bibliography of your thesis


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Scoping Reviews

Scoping reviews are a "preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research)."
Grant and Booth (2009).

Scoping reviews are not mapping reviews: Scoping reviews are more topic based and mapping reviews are more question based.

  • examining emerging evidence when specific questions are unclear - clarify definitions and conceptual boundaries
  • identify and map the available evidence
  • a scoping review is done prior to a systematic review
  • to summarize and disseminate research findings in the research literature
  • identify gaps with the intention of resolution by future publications


Systematic Reviews

Many evidence-based disciplines use ‘systematic reviews," this type of review is a specific methodology that aims to comprehensively identify all relevant studies on a specific topic, and to select appropriate studies based on explicit criteria.

  • clearly defined search criteria
  • an explicit reproducible methodology
  • a systematic search of the literature with the defined criteria met
  • assesses validity of the findings - no risk of bias
  • a comprehensive report on the findings, apparent transparency in the results