What is a systematic literature review?

Systematic literature review involves methodically diving into the literature, in order to form a comprehensive overview of the results, controversies, trends, etc. of your topic of research. The findings are reported in a review paper. There are dozens of literature review types and each follows the corresponding method. Which review type best fits your research depends on the research objective, the research question and the available resources, among other things. 


In this library guide, we provide tips for systematic searching and discuss 4 common types of literature reviews:

  • narrative review - allows for your own approach and perspective, but is therefore sensitive to bias;
  • scoping review - suitable for answering a broad research question in a (relatively) new research area;
  • systematic review - very thorough method. Goal: to provide an objective summary of all relevant publications to date;
  • rapid review - like systematic review, but with methodological 'short cuts', allowing for a shorter time frame;


For each review type, we explain the main features and the steps you take at each stage of the research process. A resource list with books, useful links and examples of published review papers is provided in each section. The overview below showcases some key differences between the review types.


Tips for systematic searching

A systematic search strategy is fundamental to good literature research, regardless of the type of review you will be writing. In the suggestions for systematic search tab, you will find information and advice for all steps in the search process:

Minilecture Literature Review

Useful links and resources


  • Jha, R., Sondhi, V., & Vasudevan, B. (2022). Literature search: Simple rules for confronting the unknown. Medical Journal Armed Forces India (78)S1, S14-S23.  DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.mjafi.2022.07.009
  • Sabistona, C.M., Vani, M., de Jonge, M. & Nesbitt, A. (2022). Scoping reviews and rapid reviews. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, (15)1, 91-119. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2021.1964095

  • Sutton, A., Clowes, M., Preston, L., & Booth, A. (2019). Meeting the review family: exploring review types and associated information retrieval requirements. Health Information & Libraries Journal36(3), 202–222. DOI: doi.org/10.1111/hir.12276


If you have questions, please contact the Information Specialist Research of your research center, or go to support & contact for more information and advice.