Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the number of systematic reviews conducted and published — although a systematic review is an inappropriate or unnecessary research methodology for answering many research questions. Systematic reviews can be inappropriate for a variety of reasons:
If you feel your circumstances or research topic match any of the above, a systematic review may not be the best approach for you. You could still do a literature review, and adopt elements of systematic review methodology, rather than a systematic review.
Marshall Dozier, College Lead Librarian at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at Edinburgh University, has created a presentation called Literature Reviews: Functions, Types and Methods (link opens in new window):
When we think of a literature review, we often forget to consider the different types of reviews and the different roles or functions that literature reviews can have.
In this short presentation I will first discuss some functions of literature reviews, and then make some points about how the function or purpose of your review should inform the type that you choose to do, and the methods that you employ.
There are many types of systematic review, they each have a slightly different purpose and methodology.
For details of other review types see
Grant M, Booth A. A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies (link opens in new window). Health Information & Libraries Journal. 2009;26(2):91-108.
Andrea Tricco at Knowledge Synthesis has developed What Review is Right for You? (link opens in new window), an online tool 'designed to provide guidance and supporting material to reviewers on methods for the conduct and reporting of knowledge synthesis.' The tool currently only supports quantitative studies. Researchers can fill in a questionnaire, and it will suggest an appropriate review type, and resources to support the review.