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Overview of scoping reviews

Overview of scoping reviews

Portrait photograph of Dr. Micah Peters, co-author of this guide.

"In general, scoping reviews are commonly used for 'reconnaissance' - to clarify working definitions and conceptual boundaries of a topic or field. Scoping reviews are therefore particularly useful when a body of literature has not yet been comprehensively reviewed, or exhibits a complex or heterogeneous nature not amenable to a more precise systematic review of the evidence.

While scoping reviews may be conducted to determine the value and probable scope of a full systematic review, they may also be undertaken... in and of themselves to summarize and disseminate research findings, to identify research gaps, and to make recommendations for the future research."

Peters, M 2015 'Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews'

Guidelines and standards

Using a standard or guideline will help you conduct your scoping review correctly.

Scoping review methodology has evolved over time. A number of key papers that were fundamental to this evolution are available on the Key historical papers tab of this box. These are not recommended to be used as current methodology, but can be useful to provide background and context.

Watch the video below, narrated by Dr Micah Peters, UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences, to learn how the scoping review methodology evolved (to 2017).

Video Length: 4:03

Current standards and guidelines: 

The Joanna Briggs Institute's (JBI) approach is widely considered the standard. It aims to consolidate and build on earlier works describing scoping review methodologies. The Cochrane Collaboration follows a similar approach.

The scoping review process

The steps below are based on Chapter 11 of the JBI Manual for Evidence synthesis.

This is the plan for your review.

  • Eligibility criteria (inclusion/exclusion)
  • Screening process
  • Critical appraisal process (optional -not typical)
  • Charting process

Then, per your protocol:


Note: scoping reviews tend to be more iterative than traditional systematic reviews, which may result in deviations from the protocol. While this is acceptable, any changes and the rationale for these must still be clearly articulated in the methodology section of the final paper. Learn more about the differences between review types here.

Exemplar reviews

Not sure if this is the review type for you?

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