Although systematic reviews are considered the gold standard when it comes to evidence based medicine, you may have a research question that doesn’t lend itself well to the systematic review methodology? There are several other literature review methodologies which can be utilized, depending on topic, timelines and budget:
- Literature Reviews allow the researcher to identify literature relevant to the research question. This method allows for a qualitative summary of evidence on your research question, however, it employs subjective methods in study selection and in the interpretation of evidence.
- Rapid Reviews are a faster, more cost-effective alternative to systematic reviews, which are increasingly being used to provide evidence to support policy making and practice decisions. While a rapid review still requires the development of a well-defined research question, with a narrow scope, the literature search may be limited (e.g. by limiting the number of databases searched, the languages, and the time frame for inclusion). Furthermore, rather than utilizing two independent reviewers for study selection, quality appraisal and data extraction, a single reviewer may be used.
- Depending on your study objectives, a Summary of Abstracts or an Annotated Bibliography may suffice. These methods provide a quick summary of the sources of information, along with a subjective assessment of its relevance to the topic at hand. This information can be used on its own, or may simply be the first stage in informing a larger research project.
- Finally, if you are simply looking to understand the breadth of research available on a particular topic, a Bibliography or Reference List of related or relevant studies may be sufficient.