A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies

Health Info Libr J. 2009 Jun;26(2):91-108. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x.


Background and objectives: The expansion of evidence-based practice across sectors has lead to an increasing variety of review types. However, the diversity of terminology used means that the full potential of these review types may be lost amongst a confusion of indistinct and misapplied terms. The objective of this study is to provide descriptive insight into the most common types of reviews, with illustrative examples from health and health information domains.

Methods: Following scoping searches, an examination was made of the vocabulary associated with the literature of review and synthesis (literary warrant). A simple analytical framework -- Search, AppraisaL, Synthesis and Analysis (SALSA) -- was used to examine the main review types.

Results: Fourteen review types and associated methodologies were analysed against the SALSA framework, illustrating the inputs and processes of each review type. A description of the key characteristics is given, together with perceived strengths and weaknesses. A limited number of review types are currently utilized within the health information domain.

Conclusions: Few review types possess prescribed and explicit methodologies and many fall short of being mutually exclusive. Notwithstanding such limitations, this typology provides a valuable reference point for those commissioning, conducting, supporting or interpreting reviews, both within health information and the wider health care domain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / classification*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Publication Bias / statistics & numerical data
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Vocabulary, Controlled*