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Table 1 Five stages of an integrative literature review (summarised from Whittemore and Knafl [11])

From: A systematic review of adolescent physiological development and its relationship with health-related behaviour: a protocol

Stages of review Aim/purpose Details
(1) Problem formulation To clearly state topic of interest and purpose of review • List variables of interest
• Set focus and boundaries
(2) Literature search To make explicit and justify search strategy and sampling criteria • Specify databases and other search methods
• State type of literature to be included (e.g. published/unpublished)
• Detail key words
• Acknowledge publication bias
(3) Data evaluation To assess type, scope, diversity, and quality of accessed literature • Specify different types of study found and classify into sub-groups
• Decide on quality criteria instruments for each type of study
(4) Data synthesis To specify systematic analytical method
To create an innovative synthesis
To formulate a unified and integrated conclusion
• Data reduction: simplify sub-groups into a manageable framework according to the type (e.g. qualitative, comparative, experimental); create short summaries of each primary source
• Data display: create charts or visual network displays to show connection within each sub-group type
• Data comparison: identify patterns, themes, relationships, and major variables within and between sub-groups
• Conclusion drawing and verification: creative and critical analysis of data, acknowledging commonalities and differences, and including any justifiable generalisations
• Production of integrative summation
(5) Presentation To capture the depth and breadth of the topic and produce a comprehensive understanding • Summary should contribute to a new understanding
• Specify implications for practice, research, and policy
• Note limitations of the review as a whole