Systematic Reviews in the Health Sciences
Should you consider another type of review?
Not all questions can appropriately be answered by a systematic review. The following article offer a typology of alternative review types you may wish to consider (see Table 1 for brief descriptions):
Grant M, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal. 2009;26(2):91-108.
A 2016 presentation by Dr. Andrew Booth, on behalf of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) entitled "Fifty Shades of Review" describes the development and implementation of some of these knowledge synthesis methodologies.
Some alternatives you might want to consider, depending on your research question, resources and time include:
Purpose: a systematic review that is updated on an ongoing basis to incorporate new evidence.
- Guidance for the Production and Publication of Cochrane Living Systematic Reviews Cochrane Collaboration, 2019.
- Elliott, Julian H, et al. “Living Systematic Review: 1. Introduction—the Why, What, When, and How.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 91, 2017, pp. 23–30.
- Marshall, Iain, et al. “Living Systematic Reviews: 2. Combining Human and Machine Effort.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 91, 2017, pp. 31–37.
- Simmonds, Mark, et al. “Living Systematic Reviews: 3. Statistical Methods for Updating Meta-Analyses.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 91, 2017, pp. 38–46.
- Akl, Elie A, et al. “Living Systematic Reviews: 4. Living Guideline Recommendations.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 91, 2017, pp. 47–53.
Purpose: To modify the methods of systematic reviewing to generate an answer in a shorter time frame. Rapid reviews may take three weeks to six months to complete. They tend to be restricted to more easily-retrievable evidence; as a result they sacrifice some of the rigour typical of full systematic reviews.
- Ganann R, Ciliska D, Thomas H. Expediting systematic reviews: methods and implications of rapid reviews. Implementation Science. 2010;5(1):56.
- Khangura S, Polisena J, Clifford T, Farrah K, Kamel C. Rapid review: an emerging approach to evidence synthesis in health technology assessment. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 2014;30(01):20-27.
- Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). Rapid Review Summit. 2015
Example: Hersi M, Stevens A, Quach P, Hamel C, Thavorn K, Garritty C et al. Effectiveness of Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers Caring for Patients with Filovirus Disease: A Rapid Review. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(10):e0140290.
Purpose: To situate the evidence in the context in which it is being applied - realizes that context influences the outcomes of an intervention. Often summed up as "what works, how, for whom, in what circumstances and to what extent?" (Greenhalgh et al., 2011).
- Kirst M, O'Campo P. Realist Review and Evaluation: What Do We Know about What Works?. In: Burke J, Steven A, ed. by. Methods for Community Public Health Research: Integrated and Engaged Approaches. 1st ed. New York: Springer; 2014.
- Pawson R, Greenhalgh T, Harvey G, Walshe K. Realist review - a new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy. 2005;10(suppl 1):21-34.
- Wong G, Greenhalgh T, Westhorp G, Buckingham J, Pawson R. RAMESES publication standards: realist syntheses. Journal of Advanced Nursing 2013; 69(5), 1005-1022.
Smylie J, Kirst M, McShane K, Firestone M, Wolfe S, O'Campo P. Understanding the role of Indigenous community participation in Indigenous prenatal and infant-toddler health promotion programs in Canada: A realist review. Social Science & Medicine. 2016;150:128-143.
Purpose: To assess the size and scope of available research literature, and identify gaps and research needs. The extent of the literature search depends on the reviewers time/scope constraints. While the quality of existing evidence may be described, there is usually not a formal quality appraisal process as with a systematic review.
- Arksey H, O’Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 2005 8;1:19-32.
- Colquhoun HL, Levac D, O'Brien KK, Straus S, Tricco AC, Perrier L, Kastner M, Moher D. Scoping reviews: time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2014 Dec;67(12):1291-4.
- Levac D, Colquhoun H, O'Brien KK. Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implement Science. 2010 Sep 20;5:69.
Example: Shommu N, Ahmed S, Rumana N, Barron G, McBrien K, Turin T. What is the scope of improving immigrant and ethnic minority healthcare using community navigators: A systematic scoping review. International Journal for Equity in Health. 2016;15(1).
Purpose: To synthesize the findings of several reviews around the same question. Quality appraisal may be of the reviews themselves, or of the studies contained within them.
- McKenzie J. and Brennan, S. Overviews of systematic reviews: great promise, greater challenge. Systematic Reviews. 2017; 6(185).
- Ioannidis J. Integration of evidence from multiple meta-analyses: a primer on umbrella reviews, treatment networks and multiple treatments meta-analyses. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2009;181(8):488-493.
- Pham M, Rajić A, Greig J, Sargeant J, Papadopoulos A, McEwen S. A scoping review of scoping reviews: advancing the approach and enhancing the consistency. Research Synthesis Methods. 2014;5(4):371-385.
Example: Lau R, Stevenson F, Ong B, Dziedzic K, Treweek S, Eldridge S et al. Achieving change in primary care—effectiveness of strategies for improving implementation of complex interventions: systematic review of reviews. BMJ Open. 2015;5(12):e009993.
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