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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

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 a recent review on the same topic has not already been published.

  • To check for published scoping reviews and scoping review protocols, 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.
  • When you are confident that your research will not be duplicating efforts, you are ready to begin your own review.

Scoping Review Webinars

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

Munn, Z., Peters, M., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approachBMC medical research methodology18(1), 143.

Peters MDJ, Godfrey C, McInerney P, Munn Z, Tricco AC, Khalil, H. Scoping Reviews (2020). Aromataris E, Lockwood C, Porritt K, Pilla B, Jordan Z, editors. JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis. JBI; 2024. Available from:
Peters, M. D., Godfrey, C., McInerney, P., Khalil, H., Larsen, P., Marnie, C., ... & Munn, Z. (2022). Best practice guidance and reporting items for the development of scoping review protocolsJBI Evidence Synthesis20(4), 953-968.

Pollock, D., Davies, E., Peters, M., Tricco, A., Alexander, L., McInerney, P., Godfrey, C., Khalil, H., & Munn, Z. (2021). Undertaking a scoping review: A practical guide for nursing and midwifery students, clinicians, researchers, and academics. Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Westphaln, K. K., Regoeczi, W., Masotya, M., Vazquez-Westphaln, B., Lounsbury, K., McDavid, L., ... & Ronis, S. D. (2021). From Arksey and O’Malley and Beyond: Customizations to enhance a team-based, mixed approach to scoping review methodology. MethodsX, 8, 101375.