About Systematic Reviews

Understanding an Integrative Review
vs Systematic Review

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As a policymaker or system implementer, you’re required to make important decisions that will have far-reaching consequences on the industry you specialize in. These decisions must be based on verifiable evidence collected from various studies. Therefore, you have to constantly review available studies to ensure you have enough reliable data to support your decisions. Fortunately, different types of reviews (including systematic reviews, integrative reviews, and rapid reviews, among others) can help you evaluate this evidence.

Each type of review has its unique advantages and drawbacks that you need to be aware of before you begin a review. Your intention of doing the research should define the type of review you choose to use. Many online resources discuss the difference between a rapid review vs systematic review, as well as randomized controlled trial vs systematic review, which can help you gain a deeper understanding of the different approaches. In this article, we’ll compare integrative reviews with systematic reviews.

Integrative Reviews

An integrative review summarizes past experimental and theoretical data to help develop a broad understanding of concepts and healthcare issues. This type of review has the potential to shape nursing science, informative research, clinical practice, and policy actions. If conducted properly, an integrative review will contribute immensely to theory-development processes, present the standing of science related to the issue, and help apply this information to practice and strategy.

Integrative reviews allow for the incorporation of various approaches, including experimental and non-experimental methods of review. They are suitable for reviewing experimental and theoretical studies concurrently. Experimental studies involve a setting where intervention is provided to the experimental group and not the control group. The effects of this intervention are then evaluated to come up with new conclusions. On the other hand, a theoretical study does not use experimental or empirical evidence, rather it involves the use of interviews, observations, or a combination of theoretical data to develop its findings. These findings are then used to develop new theories. Integrative reviews thus by involving both experimental ad theoretical studies are able to point out research gaps and examine systematic issues.

This type of review is quite comprehensive and therefore can take months or years to complete. However, the duration of an integrative review depends on several factors, including available resources, the quality and quantity of the literature that needs to be examined, and the expertise and experience of the reviewers. It also involves the formulation of specific research questions, which may be related to practice or policy (or both).

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Systematic Reviews

A systematic review of literature is a form of evidence evaluation that uses reproducible, analytical approaches to gather information and assess its validity and applicability. This type of review involves formulating research questions (broad or focused in scope) and then identifying and synthesizing information related to the research questions. Systematic reviews are suitable for biomedical and healthcare studies, but they can also be used in other areas that require an evaluation of a specifically defined subject. These are business, political science, social science, behavioral science, etc.

This type of review can be used to evaluate clinical tests, environmental interventions, qualitative-evidence synthesis, public-health interventions, procedural reviews, policy reviews, and economic assessments. It summarizes the results of well-designed studies, especially in healthcare, to offer highly effective and unbiased evidence. Using this evidence, you’re able to make recommendations and influence policies in healthcare. However, systematic reviews are quite complex and can take months, if not years, to complete. Depending on the type of review, and the amount of literature involved, a systematic review can take up to two years.

Finally, the key difference between an integrative review and a systematic review is the kind of studies included in the review. A systematic review will include either experimental studies like randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) or qualitative studies, but not both at the same time. For a review to be termed integrative, it must include both experimental and theoretical studies. Data from both types of studies are used to draw new conclusions. Unfortunately, the synthesis and complexity of incorporating different methodologies into integrative reviews can contribute to a lack of consistency, and at times lead to inaccurate and biased findings.

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