In the evidence-based era of medicine and decision-making, literature reviews offer a faster and more cost-efficient method to gather intelligence.

Having a clear understanding of the different options available is vital to make sure that the final deliverable is aligned with client expectations and needs.

The following is a list of five of the most popular types of reviews that we develop at ICON:

1. Rapid literature review

Also known as targeted review or rapid evidence summary, a rapid literature review provides an assessment of existing knowledge in a focused or narrow area, by applying select components of systematic review methods to produce information in a short period of time. 

2. Systematic literature review

A systematic literature review (SLR) provides a summary of the available studies of a clearly formulated question that applies systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise primary research. It is a protocol-driven complete and comprehensive search of the literature using multiple sources based on an inclusion/exclusion criteria and involves a formal quality assessment of the included evidence.

3. Systematic literature review update

An SLR update can include new data, methods or analyses from the previous edition of the SLR. Like an SLR, an update is protocol driven and will ask the same or similar questions as the previous SLR but may modify some aspects of the inclusion criteria in light of developments in the research area.

4. Living systematic review

A living systematic review is continually updated to include relevant new evidence as it becomes available. The approach is similar to SLR but underpinned by continual, active monitoring of evidence on a pre-established basis of frequency (e.g. monthly update) and outline of how new evidence is incorporated into the review.

5. Scoping review

Also known as scoping study, scoping report, or scoping project, 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. 

With a clear understanding of the purpose, audience, timing and available resources, researchers can determine which option is best suited for their needs and will be most effective for a particular situation. 

To learn more about our capabilities or to speak with an expert about the best approach to meet your evidence requirements, timing, resources and budget, please contact us.


This blog is an edited version of “Five common literature reviews for real-world evidence generation: Which one do you really need?” which appeared in the April 2020 edition of Pharmafocus Magazine. Read the full article.