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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and other Knowledge Syntheses

Purpose of this guide

This guide was created to help students and faculty learn more about types of knowledge syntheses and the process of conducting them.

CIHR defines knowledge synthesis as "the contextualization and integration of research findings of individual research studies within the larger body of knowledge on the topic. A synthesis must be reproducible and transparent in its methods, using quantitative and/or qualitative methods." Systematic reviews, scoping reviews, realist syntheses, narrative syntheses, meta-analyses, meta-syntheses and practice guidelines are all forms of synthesis.

Types of knowledge syntheses covered in this guide

Information covered in this guide

  • Resources for an overview on knowledge synthesis methods can be found on this page of our guide. Start here if you do not know where to begin.
  • A systematic review is designed to answer precisely defined, narrow questions and may be limited to specific study designs. More information on this type of review can be found on this page of our guide.
  • According to Arksey and O'Malley, a scoping review aims to address broader, more complex, and exploratory research questions where many different study designs may be applicable. More information on this type of review can be found on this page of our guide
  • Resources for realist and rapid reviews can be found on this page.

Guidance on the process of conducting knowledge syntheses begins on this page.


Systematic review service

Systematic review service

For more information about librarian assistance in conducting a knowledge synthesis, please visit our systematic review service page.


McGill University Library has a subscription to Covidence, a useful tool for importing database records, removing duplicate records, screening, documenting critical appraisal/risk of bias and data extraction, and exporting data. Covidence also allows members of the McGill community to invite external reviewers to join their review team.

For access and support for Covidence, please consult:

Contact us


Due to a large influx of requests, there may be an extended wait time for librarian support on knowledge syntheses.


Find a librarian in your subject area to help you with your knowledge synthesis project.


Or contact the librarians at the
Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering

Need help? Ask us!

Online training resources

Online training resources

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