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Systematic Reviews & Other Syntheses


Arksey and O’Malley (2005) identify four common reasons why a scoping study might be undertaken in their seminal article outlining a methodological framework. More broadly, the authors separate these four reasons into two different purposes for conducting the review:

The scoping [review] as one part of an ongoing process of reviewing the research landscape, the ultimate aim of which is to produce a full systematic review.

1. To examine the extent, range and nature of research

2. To determine the value of undertaking a systematic review

Alternatively, the scoping [review] might be conceived as a method in its own right—leading to publication and dissemination of research findings in a particular field of enquiry.

3.To summarize and disseminate research findings

4. To identify research gaps in the existing literature


Other introductory videos and modules:

Scoping Review Steps

Five stages of a scoping review*

  1. Identify the research question
  2. Identify relevant studies
  3. Study selection
  4. Charting the data
  5. Collating, summarizing and reporting the results
    (Arksey & O'Malley, 2005)

*Important: before embarking on a scoping review, make sure that 1) a recent review on the same topic has not already been published, and 2) that a review protocol has not already been registered for the same topic. 

  • To check for published and registered (i.e. forthcoming) scoping reviews, search databases such as Ovid MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and even Google Scholar (to catch any journal content that is not covered in bibliographic databases). Journals that publish scoping review protocols include BMJ Open and Systematic Reviews, among others.
  • You can also search for registered protocols by review collaborations such as the Joanna Briggs Institute.
  • When you are confident that your research will not be duplicating efforts, you are ready to begin your own review.

Scoping Review Guidelines

The following articles describe the purpose and methods of a scoping review in detail:

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O'Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., ... & Hempel, S. (2018). PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): checklist and explanation. Annals of internal medicine, 169(7), 467-473.

Peters, M. D., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. International journal of evidence-based healthcare, 13(3), 141-146.

Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32. doi:10.1080/1364557032000119616

Peters, M., Godfrey, C., McInerney, P., Soares, C., Hanan, K., & Parker, D. (2015). The Joanna Briggs Institute reviewers' manual 2015: methodology for JBI scoping reviews.

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