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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,

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)
  • Search should be comprehensive and sensitive (i.e. broad and inclusive):
  • May include research in progress
  • 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.

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

Scoping reviews versus systematic reviews

Both types of review systematically select, collect and summarize a body of research on a particular topic, but there are key differences:

Scoping review guidance

JBI (formerly known as the Joanna Briggs Institute) is a global leader advancing best practices in the conduct of scoping reviews.

Key JBI scoping review guidance:

Additional guidance:

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.

Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., & O’Brien, K. K. (2010). Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implementation Science : IS, 5(1), 69–69.