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Literature Reviews: Lit Review Types

Types of literature Reviews

Traditional or Narrative literature Review

  • Critiques and summarizes a body of literature
  • Draws conclusions about the topic
  • Identifies gaps or inconsistencies in a body of knowledge
  • Requires a sufficiently focused research question


  • A large number of studies may make it difficult to draw conclusions
  • The process is subject to bias that supports the researcher's own work.

Systematic Literature Review

  • More rigorous and well-defined approach
  • Comprehensive
  • Published and unpublished studies relating to a particular subject area
  • Details the time frame within which the literature was selected
  • Details the methods used to evaluate and synthesize findings of the studies in question

Example of systematic review


  • A form of systematic review (reductive)
  • Takes findings from several studies on the same subject and analyzes them using standardized statistical procedures
  • Integrates findings from a large body of quantitative findings to enhance under-standing (study=unit of analysis)
  • Draws conclusions and detect patterns and relationships

Example of meta-analysis


  • Non-statistical technique
  • Integrates, evaluates and interprets findings of multiple qualitative research studies
  • Identifies common core elements and themes
  • May use findings from phenomenological, grounded theory or ethnographic studies
  • Involves analyzing and synthesizing key elements
  • Goal:  transform individual findings into new conceptualizations and interpretations

Example of meta-synthesis