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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Knowledge syntheses: Systematic & Scoping Reviews, and other review types

What are knowledge syntheses?

In the context of knowledge translation, "synthesis" according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2016) is defined as:

"'the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods. It could take the form of a systematic review; follow the methods developed by The Cochrane Collaboration; result from a consensus conference or expert panel and may synthesize qualitative or quantitative results"

Realist syntheses, narrative syntheses, meta-analyses, meta-syntheses and practice guidelines are all forms of synthesis.

Knowledge Syntheses - Differences and Similtarities

The following table displays the similarities and differences between the most common types of reviews. This table was adapted from a variety of sources (Booth, 2016; Grant and Booth, 2009; Higgins & Green, 2011Pham et al., 2014; and Tricco et al., 2015)

Knowledge synthesis 

A priori protocol required?

Protocol registration? required 

 Comprehensive  search?

Duplicate screening & data extraction?

Critical appraisal?

  Statistical analysis?

 Time 

Systematic Review

YES, often published Prospero, JBI, OSF YES YES YES YES 1+ yr

Meta Analysis

YES, often published  Prospero, JBI, OSF YES  YES YES  YES 1+ yr

Scoping Review

YES JBI, OSFResearch registry & other  registries YES YES NO NO, charted evidence ~ 1 yr

 Rapid Review

YES, often not published OSFResearch registry, & other registries

NO, varied # of databases, dates and other limits

Varied NO, but recommended

 NO, varied analysis methods

 ~1 - 6 mo

 Realist Review

YES, some published OSF, Research registry, & other registries YES  YES NO NO  1+ yr

 Overview of reviews

YES, often published Prospero, OSF, & other registries

 YES, only reviews included

 YES YES YES  ~ 1 yr
Mapping Review Encouraged OSF, Research registry, & other registries  YES  Varied NO NO 1+ yr 
Narrative Review NO Not necessary Varied, not necessary Varied, not necessary  NO NO

6 mo

- 1 yr 

Quiz: What Review is Right for You?

If you're wondering what type of knowledge synthesis best suits your research purposes, complete this short quiz: https://whatreviewisrightforyou.knowledgetranslation.net/

Please note that as of December 2019, this tool has 10 potential outcomes, all of which are for quantitative studies. Stay tuned for this tool to include qualitative studies!