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Integrative Review

A guide introducing the process of conducting an integrative review

Systematic vs. Scoping vs. Integrative Review

  • If you are wondering whether to perform a scoping review, integrative review, or systematic review, the following summaries can help you determine which review type is most appropriate for your research or clinical question. Grant and Booth (2009) and Whittemore et al (2014) describe additional review types that may better fit your research.
  • Please note: The heading for each column in the table below links to Gumberg Library research guides.

Systematic Review

Scoping Review

Integrative Review

"Systematic reviews aim to identify, evaluate, and summarize the findings of all relevant individual studies over a health-related issue, thereby making the available evidence more accessible to decision makers" (Ganeshkumar & Gopalakrishnan, 2013). "A scoping review... is a form of knowledge synthesis that addresses an exploratory research question aimed at mapping key concepts, types of evidence, and gaps in research related to a defined area or field by systematically searching, selecting, and synthesizing existing knowledge" (Colquhoun et al., 2014). "Integrative reviews, thus, have the potential to build nursing science, informing research, practice, and policy initiatives. The integrative review method allows for the inclusion of diverse methodologies (i.e. experimental and non-experimental research" (Whittemore and Knafl, 2005).

Systematic reviews seek to:

  1. Uncover the evidence
  2. Confirm current practice/ address any variation/identify new practices
  3. Identify and inform areas for future research
  4. Identify and investigate conflicting results
  5. Produce statements to guide decision-making

Scoping reviews may seek to: 

  1. Identify the types of available evidence in a given field
  2. Clarify key concepts/ definitions in the literature
  3. Examine how research is conducted on a certain topic or field
  4. Identify key characteristics or factors related to a concept
  5. Determine whether a systematic review is possible
  6. Identify and analyze knowledge gaps

Integrative reviews seek to: 

  1. Generate or refine a theory or hypothesis
  2. Combine empirical and theoretical research
  3. Examine research on a given health phenomenon
  4. Inform healthcare policy and practice
"If the authors have a more precise question addressing the feasibility, appropriateness, meaningfulness or effectiveness of a certain treatment or practice, then a systematic review is likely the most valid approach" (Munn et al, 2018). "If authors do not have single or precise questions, and are more interested in the identification of certain characteristics/concepts in papers or studies, and in the mapping, reporting or discussion of these characteristics/concepts, then a scoping review is the better choice" (Munn et al, 2018). If using diverse data sources to develop holistic understanding of the topic of interest by presenting the state of the science and contributing to theory development an integrative review should be performed (da Silva et al, 2020).