Systematic Literature Review Protocols

To ensure that our proposed research will fill important gaps in the peer-reviewed literature, we conducted 5 systematic, realist, and scoping reviews to examine the underlying global context for health-related climate change interventions and policies related to Indigenous food systems.


To conduct these literature reviews, we drew on systematic review approaches created by members of our team that were specifically developed for climate change adaptation research:

Framework Used for Systematic Reviews Conducted to Inform Our Proposal


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Methods Integrated into our Systematic Review
Research synthesis method Description Quantitative or qualitative Description References
Formal Systematic Review


Predominantly used for analyses of quantitative empirical data in the health sciences, with an emphasis on randomized control trials. Numerous organizations (e.g., Cochrane) have published standardized methodological guidelines, coordinate working groups, and house libraries of approved systematic reviews. Methods are often strictly standardized, with statistical theory dominant. Integration of other guiding theories is possible but not common. Predominantly quantitative analysis of quantitative data, though emerging efforts to integrate qualitative evidence


Jadad et al. (1998), Klassen et al. (1998), Moher et al. (1998)




Considered a sub-set of systematic review that conducts formal statistical analysis of results from multiple quantitative studies. Published meta-analyses generally follow formal and strict methodological standards. Use of statistical theory is implicit. Quantitative analysis of quantitative data only


Espey (1996), Akobeng (2005), Furlan et al. (2009), Richardson and Loomis (2009), Higgins and Green (2011)


Best Evidence Synthesis


Similar to meta-analysis, but proposes that a stricter filter be applied to which studies and evidence are included in the analysis. Suggests using only the highest quality studies and excluding others. This contrasts with standard meta-analysis, which applies a broader inclusion criteria filter based on study quality and includes all eligible studies in analysis. Methods are generally strictly standardized, often with statistical theory dominant. Integration of other guiding theories is possible but not common. Quantitative analysis of quantitative data only


Slavin (1995), Letzel (1995), Cook et al. (1997), Cubbison (1999), Newhouse (2008), Cancelliere et al. (2011)


Quantitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)


Similar to meta-analysis, yet uses statistical techniques comparable to principal component analysis. Methods are explicitly articulated and guided by statistical theory. Integration of other guiding theories is possible but not common.


Quantitative Wagschal and Wenzelburger (2012), Macias-Chapula (2013)


Realist Review An approach to literature review designed to evaluate interventions by seeking to understand and explain complex causal contexts: ‘does a particular intervention work, for whom, why, and in what context?’ Methods are generally explicitly articulated, including detailed clarification of the scope of the research question and explicit use of theory to guide the review and analysis. Contrasts with traditional systematic review approaches predominantly in its focus on explaining causal processes and use with qualitative literature and questions. Was designed for explaining reasons for success or failure in intervention-based research, but has been adapted more broadly.


Mixed, though generally includes a substantive qualitative component


Pawson et al. (2005), Mazzocato et al. (2010), Vassilev et al. (2011), DeBono et al. (2012)


Narrative Review Used predominantly in the health sciences literature to refer to reviews that apply systematic methods for document selection and inclusion, but evaluate mixed qualitative and quantitative literature or use predominantly descriptive analysis. Methods are often explicitly defined, but range in depth, and can include only brief reference to systematic document selection. Use of qualitative theory is possible and occurs occasionally.


Mixed Gibson et al. (2012), Kreichauf et al. (2012), Mwangi-Powell et al. (2013), Wong et al. (2013)


Meta-ethnography Inductive approach to synthesis of qualitative literature using an interpretive rather than aggregative focus. Methods are often not explicit. Reviews are explicitly guided by qualitative theory. In some cases, authors outline methods by which the review is explicitly designed around the selected theoretical approach. Results are not replicable, and positionality may be considered.


Qualitative Atkins et al. (2008)


Scientometrics Uses statistics based on citation index databases to measure scientific activity related to selected themes or topics. Methods are generally explicitly articulated and are usually not clearly guided by theory. Statistical theory is commonly used for analysis. Integration of other guiding theories is possible but not common.


Quantitative Bjurstrom and Polk (2011a, b), Janssen and Ostrom (2006), Stanhill (2001), Grieneisen and Zhang (2011)


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