Skip to Main Content

Integrative Review

A guide introducing the process of conducting an integrative review

Framework for Integrative Reviews

Framework Stages


Stage 1: Problem Identification

  1. A clear identification of the problem that the review is addressing and the review purpose.
  2. Consider concepts, target population, health care problem, types of empirical studies,  and inclusion of theoretical literature.

Stage 2: Literature Search

  1. Literature search should include database searching, grey literature searches, hand searching (searching page by page through journal or conference proceeding for relevant articles), ancestry searching (tracking down of references cited by relevant sources), networking. 

Tip #1: Use citation management software like EndNote to keep track of articles and check out the planning form below to start your literature search.

Stage 3: Data Evaluation

  1. Empirical and theoretical sources used, so an approach to evaluating quality similar to historical research may be appropriate so the authenticity, methodological quality, informational value, and representativeness of available primary sources is considered and discussed in the final report.  
  2. Theoretical reports may also be evaluated using techniques of theory analysis and critique.
  3. Whittemore and Knafl suggest coding sources for methodological or theoretical rigor and data relevance on a 2-point scale (high or low). 

Tip #2: Consider using Covidence for help tracking articles reviewed.

Tip #3: Check out the Critical Appraisal guide for additional methods to asses source validity.

Stage 4: Data Analysis

  1. Primary research methods of analysis developed for mixed-method and qualitative designs used allowing for iterative comparisons across primary data sources. 
  2. In the integrative review method, this approach to data analysis is compatible with the use of varied data from diverse methodologies. Has 4 sub categories:
    1. Data reduction. 
    2. Data display.
    3. Data comparison. 
    4. Conclusion drawing, and verification.

Tip #4: Check out the Matrix Method guide for help developing a table for articles included. 

Stage 5: Presentation

  1. Synthesize results of review to make conclusions. 
  2. Conclusions of integrative reviews can be reported in table or diagrammatic form.
  3. Explicit details from primary sources and evidence to support conclusions need to be provided to demonstrate a logical chain of evidence, allowing the reader of the review to ascertain that the conclusions of the review did not exceed the evidence.  

Tip #5: Check out Westlake (2012) for tips and visual examples of synthesis.

Tip #6: Check out tables in Collins et al (2018) to see an integrative review table and diagram examples.

Integrative Review Search Planning Form