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Gerstein Science Information Centre

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

Definition

An integrative review is a specific review method that summarises past empirical or theoretical literature to provide a greater comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon or healthcare problem (Broome 1993). Thus, integrative reviews have the potential to build upon nursing science, informing research, practice, and policy initiatives. 

An integrative review method is an approach that allows for the inclusion of diverse methodologies (i.e. experimental and non-experimental research) and has the potential to play a greater role in evidence-based practice for nursing (Whittemore et al., 2005).

When is an integrative review methodology appropiate?

When to Use It: According to Toronto, C., & Remington, R.(2020), Whitmore et al. (2005), Broome (1993): an integrative review approach is best suited for:

  • A research scope focused more broadly at a phenomenon of interest rather than a systematic review and allows for diverse research, which may contain theoretical and methodological literature to address the aim of the review

  • Supporting a wide range of inquiry, such as defining concepts, reviewing theories, or analyzing methodological issues

  • Examining the complexity of nursing practice more broadly by using diverse data sources

Elements of an Integrative Review

The following characteristics, strengths, and challenges of integrative reviews are derived from Toronto, C., & Remington, R.(2020), Whitmore et al. (2005), Broome (1993):

Characteristics:

  • A review method that summarises past empirical or theoretical literature to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon or healthcare problem

  • An integrative review is best designed for nursing practice

  • The problem must be clearly defined

  • The aim of the review is to analyze experimental and non-experimental research simultaneously in order to:

    • Define concepts

    • Review theories

    • Review evidence/point out gaps in the literature

    • Analyze methodological issues

Strengths:

  • Best designed for nursing research

  • Evidence produced from well-conducted integrative reviews contributes to nursing knowledge by clarifying phenomena, which in turn informs nursing practice and clinical practice guidelines

Challenges:

  • The combination and complexity of incorporating diverse methodologies can contribute to a lack of rigour, inaccuracy, and bias

  • Methods of analysis, synthesis, and conclusion-drawing remain poorly formulated

  • Combining empirical and theoretical reports can be difficult

  • There is no current guidance on reporting

Methods and Guidance

The following resources are considered to be the best guidance for conduct in the field of integrative reviews.

METHODS & GUIDANCE

REPORTING GUIDELINE

There is currently no reporting guideline for integrative reviews.