Skip to main content


A guide for locating nursing information resources for nursing education, practice and research.

Know the Difference! Systematic Review vs. Literature Review

It is common to confuse systematic and literature reviews as both are used to provide a summary of the existent literature or research on a specific topic.  Even with this common ground, both types vary significantly.  Please review the following chart (and its corresponding poster linked below) for the detailed explanation of each as well as the differences between each type of review.

Systematic vs. Literature Review
Systematic Review Literature Review
Definition High-level overview of primary research on a focused question that identifies, selects, synthesizes, and appraises all high quality research evidence relevant to that question Qualitatively summarizes evidence on a topic using informal or subjective methods to collect and interpret studies
Goals Answers a focused clinical question
Eliminate bias
Provide summary or overview of topic
Question Clearly defined and answerable clinical question
Recommend using PICO as a guide
Can be a general topic or a specific question
Components Pre-specified eligibility criteria
Systematic search strategy
Assessment of the validity of findings
Interpretation and presentation of results
Reference list
Reference list
Number of Authors Three or more One or more
Timeline Months to years
Average eighteen months
Weeks to months
Requirement Thorough knowledge of topic
Perform searches of all relevant databases
Statistical analysis resources (for meta-analysis)

Understanding of topic
Perform searches of one or more databases

Value Connects practicing clinicians to high quality evidence
Supports evidence-based practice
Provides summary of literature on the topic