Syntheses Synthesized: A Look Back at Grant and Booth's Review Typology
A Review of:
Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91–108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x
Objective – The article, published in 2009, aims to provide a descriptive analysis of common review types to dispel confusion and misapplication of terminology.
Design – An examination of terminology and methods applied in published literature reviews.
Methods – Grant and Booth preliminarily performed a scoping search and drew on their own experiences in health and health information theory and practice. Using literature reviews from the Health Information and Libraries Journal review feature and reviews identified in a previously published evaluation of methods in systematic reviews and meta-analyses (Ankem, 2008), Grant and Booth examined characteristics of literature reviews. They subsequently identified variations in literature review methodologies and correlating vocabulary. After arriving at the conclusion that probing the review titles and descriptions—or alternatively, examining review workflow and timeframe processes—were not accurate for classifying review types, the authors chose to apply an analytical framework called Search, AppraisaL, Synthesis, and Analysis (SALSA). By examining the scope of the search, the method of appraisal, and the nature and characteristics of the synthesis and analysis, SALSA helped the authors describe and characterize the "review processes as embodied in the description of the methodology" (Grant & Booth, 2009, p. 104). By employing an objective technique to categorize literature review types, the authors generated a descriptive typology.
Main Results – The authors provided a descriptive typology for 14 different literature reviews: critical review, literature review, mapping review/systematic map, meta-analysis, mixed studies review/mixed methods review, overview review, qualitative systematic review/qualitative evidence synthesis, rapid review, scoping review, state-of-the-art review, systematic review, systematic search and review, systematized review, and umbrella review. With the application of the SALSA framework, the literature review types were defined and narratively described and summarized, along with perceived strengths, weaknesses, and a previously published example provided for comparison. Two tables supplied a quick reference for comparing literature review types and examining selected reviews. A breakdown of review types was followed by a discussion of using and developing reviews in the library and health information science domain.
Conclusion – Inconsistency in nomenclature and methods across literature reviews perpetuates significant confusion among those involved in authoring or deciphering literature reviews. Grant and Booth noted the lack of an internationally agreed-upon set of review types, the formulation of which would set a precedent for a better understanding of what is expected and required of such publications. In supplying a historical context of the literature review (detailing both its importance as a synthesis of primary research and its value to users), Grant and Booth provided a useful narrative and typology to "inform how LIS workers might approach the appraisal or development of a health information review" (p. 106).
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