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Systematic Reviews

"An integrative review...summarizes past empirical or theoretical literature to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a particular phenomenon or healthcare problem (Broome 1993). 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).

Whittemore, R., & Knafl, K. (2005). The integrative review: updated methodology. Journal of Advanced Nursing (Wiley-Blackwell)52(5), 546–553.


Thorough search is critical to the process ​

  • Incomplete searches result in inadequate pool of studies… may lead to faulty conclusions​

  • Multiple literature databases should be searched​

  • Ideally includes all relevant literature​

    • Grey literature (govt doc, dissertation, white paper), cited reference searching, etc. ​

    • Time-consuming and potentially costly​

Steps in the Integrative Review Search Process:

  • Create EndNote Library​.
  • Write out search terms and strategy​.
  • Search appropriate literature databases:​
    • Search using keywords and database-specific subject headings.
    • Do some preliminary searching and adjust search strategy as appropriate.​
    • Keep meticulous documentation of searches: SAVE search​ and print out (or copy/paste to Word) search strategy from that database, date of search, number of citations.  Searches must be thorough, reproducible, and include the full search strategy​.
    • Export all citations from the database into EN​.
    • Repeat this process for the rest of your databases​.
  • Remove duplicates​.
  • Create PRISMA flow diagram of search process.​
  • Write up search methods​.

Hint: Locate a review (Cochrane Collection is also a good resource) on a topic close to yours and look at their methods, search terms, databases, etc.​