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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Health Policy Management & Evaluation

What are scoping reviews?

A scoping study can be defined as:"..a form of knowledge synthesis that addresses an exploratory research question aimed at mapping key concepts, types of evidence, and gaps in research related to a defined area or field by systematically searching, selecting and synthesizing existing knowledge."  (from:  Colquhoun, H. L., Levac, D., O'Brien, K. K., Straus, S., Tricco, A. C., Perrier, L., . . . Moher, D. (2014). Scoping reviews: Time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting.  Journal of Clinical Epidemiology,(12), 1291-1294. ).

Common reasons for conducting a scoping study:

  1. Examine the extent, range and nature of research activity
  2. Determine the value of undertaking a full systematic review (e.g. do any studies exist?  Have systematic reviews already been conducted?)
  3. Summarize and disseminate research findings
  4. Identify gaps in existing body of literature

(from Arksey, H., O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1): 19-32.)

Scoping studies typically involve six steps:

  1. Identify the research question
  2. Identify relevant studies
  3. Select studies to include
  4. Extract & charting  data from included studies
  5. Collate, summarize & report results
  6. Consultation with stakeholders


Current best practices in conducting scoping review powerpoint slides

Guidelines for reporting a scoping review

A guideline to standardize the reporting of scoping reviews – Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) is currently in process.