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Systematic reviews, scoping reviews and other evidence syntheses

Overview of evidence synthesis reviews and relevant strategies, tools and resources.

What is a scoping review?

Scoping reviews (are)… “exploratory projects that systematically map the literature available on a topic, identifying key concepts, theories, sources of evidence and gaps in the research.”
Canadian Institutes of Health Research,

Why do a scoping review?

  • Provide an overview of available literature, identify key themes and foci
  • Summarize & disseminate findings from a body of research evidence
  • Identify gaps in existing literature to support planning future research
  • Determine whether to conduct a full systematic review

Arksey, H., & O‘Malley, L. (2005). Scoping Studies: Towards a Methodological FrameworkInternational Journal Of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32. doi:10.1080/1364557032000119616

Features of a good scoping review

  • Preliminary assessment of size and scope of available research literature
  • Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (often including ongoing research)
  • Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints
  • May include research in progress
  • No formal quality assessment
  • Synthesis: typically tabular with some narrative commentary

Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologiesHealth Information & Libraries Journal, (2), 91.

Scoping reviews versus systematic reviews

  • Both systematically select, collect and summarize a body of research on a particular topic (often clinically focused)
  • Scoping reviews may draw upon data from any type of evidence and research methodology, and are not restricted to quantitative studies (or any other study design)
  • Literature searching may not be as exhaustive for a scoping review

  • Scoping reviews do not undertake detailed appraisal of research evidence
  • Usually no restriction to specific study design
  • Scoping reviews present a “narrative account of the existing literature”
Canadian Institutes of Health Research,

Literature searching in scoping reviews

  • Search should be comprehensive and sensitive (i.e. broad and inclusive):
  • employ both keywords and subject headings
  • include scholarly and grey literature
  • search reference lists of all included studies

As specified by the PRISMA extension for scoping reviews, published scoping reviews should:

  • "present the full electronic search strategy for at least 1 database, including any limits used, such that it could be repeated."


Scoping review guidance

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA): extension for Scoping Reviews

  • scroll down access checklist, tip sheets and more

The Joanna Briggs Institute Reviewers’ Manual 2015 Methodology for JBI Scoping Reviews

Tricco, A., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K., Colquhoun, H., Kastner, M., Straus, S. (2016). A scoping review on the conduct and reporting of scoping reviews. Bmc Medical Research Methodology, 16(15), 15.

Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory & Practice, 8(1), 19-32.