Evidence Synthesis in the Social Sciences

This guide will give you an overview of evidence synthesis methodology and discuss relevant resources and tools.

Narrative reviews are not actually systematic reviews...

...but we are including them in this guide because these reviews are often mistakenly called 'systematic reviews', so we feel they should be discussed.  These are also called 'literature reviews' and while they may include a large review of the literature in a given research area, the methodology used is not considered 'systematic'.  These projects may or may not include comprehensive search strategies and quality assessments and analysis can be exploratory, chronological, conceptual, thematic or other. 

One similar type of review that may be relevant, especially for graduate and postgraduate students is something called a 'systematized review' which are reviews that attempt to include elements of a systematic review, but stop short of following a fully systematic methodology.

Narrative Literature Reviews

According to The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, "A literature review is a thorough and critical evaluation of previous research on a topic of interest to the author. The review summarizes a particular area of research that helps to explain why an author is interested in a particular topic. A literature review is primarily associated with formal academic writing, such as a master’s thesis, dissertation, or a peer-reviewed journal article. It is commonly part of a proposal written by someone pursuing a thesis or dissertation, known as a research prospectus. A literature review is also a common writing assignment in undergraduate- and graduate-level courses. An effective review of literature will define key terminology, identify a theoretical framework for the topic being addressed, and describe relevant past research in support of a research question or hypothesis.

A narrative literature review provides a synthesis or examination of the literature by considering issues and the development of the research over time. Narrative literature reviews can be contrasted with meta-analysis or the quantitative review or synthesis of literature."

Differences between systematic and literature reviews

Kysh, Lynn (2013): Difference between a systematic review and a literature review. figshare. Poster. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.766364.v1 

Literature Review Tutorials

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