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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

This guide will help you get started with your next systematic review, scoping review, or other review types.

Other names for a Mapping Review

Mapping Evidence Review, Mapping Study, Mapping Review, Mapping Exercise, Systematic Map

Limitations of a Mapping Review

  • The broad nature and rapid search may mean that some articles will be missed.
  • May take time and require additional expertise or training for creating the visual output.
  • Inconsistency in the conduct of mapping reviews.

What is a Mapping Review?

Mapping reviews are focused on a visual synthesis of the data and are question based rather than topic based like the scoping review.

Mapping reviews are best designed for:

  • When there is an abundance and a diversity of research.
  • As a first step to a systematic review.
  • To identify gaps in a topic area.


What is a Mapping Review? Outline of Stages

Timeframe: 12+ months, (same amount of time as a systematic review or longer)   *Varies beyond the type of review. Depends on many factors such as but not limited to: resources available, the quantity and quality of the literature, and the expertise or experience of reviewers" (Grant et al. 2009)

Question: Questions are of a wider scope than a systematic review. A priori review protocol is recommended.

Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more about Reviews of Complex Interventions

Sources and searches: Rapid/as time allows searching aimed to give a broad overview, still aims to be thorough and repeatable.  In some cases a mapping review may be limited to a certain type of article--may be limited to just review articles, just peer reviewed journals or just grey literature/research in progress.  Must include a PRISMA flow diagram.

See our Systematic Review Search Service for help conducting the search!

Selection: Based on inclusion/exclusion criteria.  May require more time spent screening articles due to the larger volume of studies from covering a wider scope.  Also necessary to group studies for the mapping of included studies.

Appraisal: None, only if appropriate, includes a quality assessment of study bias/validity.

Synthesis: (Graphical or Tabular, less narrative) Visual synthesis and classification of the available studies. A high level map visualizing the status of the field related to the research question.

(Sources: Petticrew and Roberts (2006), Peterson et al. (2008), Booth et al. (2016).


Peterson K, Feldt R, Mujtaba S, Mattsson M.  Systematic Mapping Studies in Software Engineering, in 12th International Conference of Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering (EASE), 2008.  

Petticrew M, Roberts H.  Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. 2006. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 

Miake L, Hempel S, Shanman R, Shekelle P. What is an evidence map? A systematic review of published evidence maps and their definitions, methods, and products.  BMC Systematic Reviews. 2016; 5:28

Booth A, Sutton A, Papaioannou D.  Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review.  Second Edition.  2016. Sage.