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Published by at December 6th, 2023 , Revised On December 8, 2023

What Is An Integrative Review | Methods & Tips

A variety of literature reviews are carried out in academic research and evidence-based practice to compile the body of information already known about a certain subject. An increasingly popular review technique is the “integrative review.” This thorough method gathers data from many sources and provides insights into the intricate links between them. In this blog, we will discuss the intricacies of integrative reviews, exploring what they are, the methods to conduct them, and their distinctions from systematic reviews. 

What Is An Integrative Review?

An integrative review, called an integral or integrated review, is a systematic and thorough process for synthesising findings from multiple research sources. In contrast to other forms of literature reviews, integrative reviews are primarily concerned with generating new insights through a review of the linkages, patterns, and connections between various sources of information. These reviews are especially helpful for examining intricate and varied subjects.

Key Characteristics Of Integrative Reviews

Before we discuss the methods of conducting integrative reviews, let’s understand some key characteristics that set them apart:

Interdisciplinary Approach 

  • Integrative reviews draw upon research from different disciplines, fostering a holistic perspective on the topic of interest.

Inclusion Of Diverse Sources 

  • They incorporate various types of literature, such as qualitative and quantitative studies, theoretical papers, and more.

Focus On Relationships 

  • Integrative reviews emphasise exploring relationships between different aspects of the topic, contributing to a deeper understanding.

Synthesis Of Knowledge 

  • These reviews synthesise information from different sources to generate new insights and perspectives, making them invaluable for advancing understanding in a field.

Now that we have a clear picture of what an integrative review entails let’s explore the methods used to conduct one.

Methods To Conduct Integrative Reviews

Integrative reviews require a systematic approach to the gathering, assessment, and synthesis of research from various sources. The following are the essential procedures and techniques to take into account when doing an integrated review:

Define The Research Question And Objectives

Clearly defining your research question or purpose is essential before discussing your integrative review. This inquiry ought to direct the choice of pertinent books and give your review direction.

Search Approach

All-inclusive Search

Start by utilising a number of databases, including PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and pertinent subject-specific databases, to perform an extensive literature search. Ensure you use a combination of keywords, including “integrative review,” “integral review,” “integrated review,” “integrative literature review,” and “integrative review protocol,” to maximise the inclusiveness of your search.

Inclusion And Exclusion Criteria

Establish clear inclusion and exclusion criteria to determine which studies are eligible for your review. These criteria should align with your research question and objectives.

Data Extraction

Gather pertinent data from the chosen research methodically. To standardise the procedure, develop a data extraction form that includes important details like the study’s methodology, conclusions, and limits.

Evaluation Of Quality

Examine the quality of the studies you have included in your review. This stage is critical for assessing the validity and dependability of the study you’re synthesising. Depending on the kind of research included, various quality assessment instruments and standards are available.

Data Integration

Synthesis of data is the basis of an integrative review. Here’s how to go about taking this important step:

Findings By Category

Sort the results of the studies you have chosen into groups or themes. This classification must align with the connections and trends you want to look into.

Analyse Relationships

Analyse the relationships and connections between the identified categories or themes. Look for commonalities, contradictions, and emerging insights.

Develop A Conceptual Framework

Make a conceptual framework that shows the connections between the various facets of your subject. This framework should contain synthesised knowledge, which will also advance your understanding of the topic.

Writing The Integrative Review

Now that you have synthesised the data and developed a conceptual framework, it’s time to write your integrative review. Follow a structured format, including an introduction, methodology section, results section (which may include the conceptual framework), discussion, and conclusion.

Critical Appraisal And Reflection

Conduct a critical appraisal of your integrative review. Reflect on the strengths and limitations of your methodology and the implications of your findings for practice and future research.

Peer Review

Consider seeking peer review of your integrative review from colleagues or experts in the field. Their feedback can help enhance the quality and rigour of your work.

Data Synthesis In Integrative Reviews: Insights

Data synthesis in integrative reviews is the process of transforming diverse research findings into meaningful insights. Here’s a concise breakdown:

  • Findings By Category 

Sort research findings according to recurring themes or ideas.

  • Analyse Relationships 

To find linkages between these categories, investigate connections and patterns.

  • Determine Trends 

Identify patterns, trends, or reoccurring themes in the literature.

  • Contrast And Compare 

Draw attention to the variations and convergences in the research designs, findings, and conclusions.

Create A Conceptual Structure 

To help with comprehension, create a graphic depiction of the relationships.

  • Recognise heterogeneity 

Take into consideration the variety of demographics, approaches, and data sources.

  • Qualitative And Quantitative Data 

Combine the two kinds of data by applying the proper analytical techniques.

  • Continue To Be Transparent 

For the sake of reproducibility and believability, record the synthesis process.

  • Combine For Effect 
  • Make an effort to generate insights that help with theory development, decision-making, or upcoming studies.

In summary, data synthesis is the core of integrative reviews, where the puzzle pieces of research findings come together to understand a richer understanding of the subject.

Integrative Review Vs. Systematic Review

It’s essential to differentiate between integrative reviews and systematic reviews, as both are commonly used methods for synthesising research but serve distinct purposes:

Integrative Review

  • Focuses on generating new insights and understanding relationships between diverse sources of information.
  • It is often used when exploring complex and multifaceted topics.
  • Emphasises the inclusion of various study types and disciplines.
  • Provides a holistic view of the subject matter.

Systematic Review

  • Primarily focuses on summarising and analysing existing research to answer specific research questions.
  • Follows a strict protocol with predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Typically prioritises randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and other quantitative studies.
  • It aims to provide an evidence-based answer to a specific question.

In summary, while integrative and systematic reviews are valuable tools in the researcher’s toolbox, they serve different purposes and are best suited to different research objectives.

Also read: Systematic review protocol


An integrative review is an effective technique for synthesising research results from several sources to better comprehend complicated subjects. Systematically gathering, analysing, and synthesising data allows researchers to produce new insights and advance knowledge in their domains. Remember that carrying out an integrated review necessitates careful preparation, exacting standards, and a dedication to examining connections and trends in the literature. Comprehending integrative reviews can benefit researchers of all levels, regardless of expertise. So, continue on your integrative review journey and gain a new perspective on the nuances of your selected subject.

FAQs About Integrative Reviews

What is an Integrated Review? 

An integrated review, also known as an integrative review, is a research method that systematically synthesises information from various sources to gain new insights and understand complex relationships within a topic. It distinguishes itself by its emphasis on examining connections and patterns across diverse sources, making it particularly valuable for exploring multifaceted subjects.

How to Conduct an Integrated Review? 

Defining a clear research question is vital in an integrated review as it directs the review process. It guides the selection of relevant literature, ensuring the review remains purposeful and relevant. The process involves a comprehensive literature search, setting inclusion and exclusion criteria, data extraction and evaluation, data synthesis to create a conceptual framework, and finally, writing the review.

Q4: When should I conduct a systematic, scoping, or integrated review? 

Your decision is based on the goals of your research. A scoping review is a good choice to map the literature and identify gaps, an integrated review is a good choice to better understand complex themes and relationships within the literature, and a systematic review is appropriate when you require precise answers to research questions.

Q3: Can you explain the key differences between systematic, scoping, and integrated reviews? 

Certainly! Systematic reviews focus on answering specific research questions, scoping reviews provide a broad literature overview, and integrated reviews emphasise synthesising data from diverse sources to understand relationships and generate new insights.