Q: What is the difference between a survey paper and a systematic review paper?

1 Answer to this question

Survey articles are not that common in some fields of study. While there is a slight overlap between a survey article and a review article, a systematic review is quite different. Let’s have a look at these various types…

A survey article aims to summarize the evolution of a theory, concept, or technique from inception to the current state of the art. It focuses on collecting and presenting technical information, often to describe the history of discoveries about a given topic. A survey article, therefore, is typically shorter than a review article.

A literature review (sometimes called a narrative review) also involves the collection of all the relevant literature on a topic. However, unlike a survey article, it additionally discusses the metadata from the surveyed literature to technically compare different studies, draws conclusions on their weaknesses and strengths, and proposes future directions.

Meanwhile, a systematic review is more exhaustive than a literature review as it includes both published and unpublished literature (or gray literature, such as unpublished studies, reports, dissertations, governmental research, and ongoing clinical trials). Further, a systematic review sets out to address a question and does so by a thorough review of existing literature (based on an appropriate search methodology for a systematic search) and robust data extraction and analysis techniques. Systematic reviews are a cornerstone in the field of evidence-based medicine.

Finally, there is the gold standard: meta-analysis. A meta-analysis aims to statistically combine the findings from different studies. It is more complex than a systematic review, involving the registration of your search protocol.

As a primer on the major types of secondary research articles, you may refer to this piece: Secondary research – the basics of narrative reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analysis

And for help with writing a systematic review, you may find these resources useful:

Note: The first link is to an expert-developed course on R Upskill, a sister brand providing learning programs for a variety of researcher needs, from writing to publication to promotion. You’ll find many such expert-developed courses on the R Upskill, so do visit the platform to learn more.

Hope all that helps. All the best for your paper!