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Overview of Reviews

The landscape of review articles is varied. You may encounter many different types of reviews as a reader or contributor to the scholarly record in your field. Each review type has strengths and weaknesses, and some have methodologies to follow.

Read about Reviews:

Narrative Reviews

Also Called: Literature Reviews,Overview Reviews, Review Articles

Purpose: Summarize critical points of current knowledge

Research Question: General topic; can be subjective

Team Size: 1 or more

Time to Complete: as short as 1 month


  • Feels like a book chapter
  • Can be part of a larger project including theses/dissertations


  • Subjective, open to bias
  • No explicit methodology to follow or replicate

Methodology: Non-standardized search, unclear/unspecified methods

Helpful Articles: 
Example Review:

Scoping Reviews

Also Called: Mapping Review, Scoping Study

Purpose: A framework to provide a preliminary assessment of the size and scope of the literature; includes mapping key concepts and identifying gaps in the literature 

Research Question: Broad and topic centered (may have sub-questions)

Team Size: 3 or more

Time to Complete: 3-12+ months

Advantages: Helpful in determining if a systematic review is needed on a topic


  • Larger volumes of literature to screen can take as long or longer than a systematic review
  • Lack of critical appraisal of the literature can introduce bias

Methodology: Systematic and comprehensive search, descriptive/reproducible methods

Helpful Articles: 

Example Article: 

Rapid Reviews

Also Called: Expedited reviews

Purpose: A streamlined systematic review process to respond to urgent situations or political pressure, often in a rapidly changing field

Research Question: Narrow and focused

Team Size: 2 or more

Time to Complete:  1-3 months


  • "Quick but not dirty" systematic review process
  • Some systematic review methods omitted for time-constrained settings


  • Under-developed methodology
  • Methodological shortcuts increase the risk of bias
  • Fast-tracking the process could lead to inadequate information

Methodology: Systematic review methods applied with time constraints; no standard for which systematic review pieces are abbreviated or eliminated

Helpful Articles: 
Example Article:

Umbrella Reviews

Also Called: Overview of Reviews

Purpose: Synthesize data from existing systematic reviews/meta-analyses to examine the highest level of evidence on an oversaturated topic

Research Question: Broad or specific based on the quantity/objectives of the previous reviews

Team Size: 2 or more

Time to Complete: 6-12 months

Advantages: Provides an overview and list of relevant systematic reviews on a particular topic

Limitations: Limited evidence sources if not many systematic reviews/meta-analyses are available

Methodology: Systematic review methods applied but limited to publication type

Helpful Articles: 
Example Review: