According to Booth (2016), "a mapping review aims at categorizing, classifying, characterizing patterns, trends or themes in evidence production or publication" (p. 14). Grant & Booth (2009) add that the point in conducting a mapping review is to "map out" and thematically understand the pre-existing research on a particular topic including assessing any gaps that could be addressed by future research.
Mapping reviews are not to be confused with scoping reviews and differ as the outcome of a mapping review can be to produce primary research or more reviews. Mapping reviews are also known as systematic maps.
When to Use It: Booth (2016) states that "a mapping review is best used where a clear target for a more focused evidence product has not yet been identified" (p. 14). Mapping reviews are especially useful for topics where there is a lot of preexisting literature, for investing if there are gaps in the literature, and are useful to conduct before larger knowledge syntheses such as a systematic review.
Although mapping reviews are sometimes called scoping reviews, the key difference is that mapping reviews focus on a review question, rather than a topic
An useful tool for policymakers, practitioners and researchers by providing "an explicit and transparent means of identifying narrower policy and practice-relevant review questions" (Grant and Booth, 2009, p. 97).
Tend to describe studies on a broader level which can "oversimplify the picture or mask considerable variation (heterogeneity) between studies and their findings" (Grant and Booth, 2009, p. 98)
Often exclude quality assessment and "[characterize] studies only on the basis of study design" (Grant and Booth, 2009, p. 98)
The following resource provides further support on conducting a mapping study:
METHODS & CONDUCT
Cooper I. D. (2016). What is a "mapping study?" Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 104(1), 76–78.
Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation Bangor University, UK. (2013). Guidelines for Systematic Reviews in Environmental Management.
Miake-Lye, I.M., Hempel, S., Shanman, R. & Shekelle, P.G. (2016). What is an evidence map? A systematic review of published evidence maps and their definitions, methods, and products. Systematic Reviews 5(28).
Check out the supplementary resources page for additional information, including articles, on mapping reviews.
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