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Conducting a Systematic Review

What is a Scoping Review

In a scoping review, the purpose is to map the field of research on a given topic. Unlike a systematic review, there is no rigorous critical appraisal. It is knowledge synthesis that follows a systematic approach to gather evidence on a topic and identify main concepts, theories, sources, and knowledge gaps.

Systematic reviews are useful for answering clearly defined questions, such as: “Do resistance training and weight bearing exercises reduce bone mineral loss due to aromatase inhibitors?" 

Scoping reviews are useful for answering much broader questions, such as “What are the possible adverse side effects from estrogen inhibitors and how do we mitigate them?"

Among other objectives, scoping reviews help determine whether a systematic review of the literature is warranted. 

Scoping reviews can be used to map the key concepts that underpin a field of research, as well as to clarify working definitions, and/or the conceptual boundaries of a topic (Arksey & O’Malley 2005). The indications for scoping reviews are listed below: (Munn et al. 2018a)

  • As a precursor to a systematic review.

  • To identify the types of available evidence in a given field.

  • To identify and analyze knowledge gaps.

  • To clarify key concepts/ definitions in the literature.

  • To examine how research is conducted on a certain topic or field.

  • To identify key characteristics or factors related to a concept.

An Overview of the Steps

The steps:
Based on
Chapter 11 of the Johanna Briggs Institute Manual for Evidence Synthesis.

  1. Define a concise and clear objective of why the review should be conducted. Then establish a broad question that can help answer and achieve the objective.
  2. Apply the PCC (Population/Concept/Context) framework to help organize the main concepts of your question in order to create an effective search string.
  3. Develop a Protocol (your plan or playbook).
    1. See the article (Micah et al., 2022)  below for key protocol elements
  4. The Search
  5. Screening and Selecting (kicking out that which does not meet your criteria in your protocol)
  6. Extract the data from the final selection of studies.
  7. Write up your evidence.


Key Protocol Elements


This is an excellent article which will guide you in creating your scoping review protocol.

Peters, Micah, Godfrey, Christina, McInerney, Patricia, Khalil, Hanan, Larsen, Palle, Marnie, Casey, et al. (2022). Best practice guidance and reporting items for the development of scoping review protocols. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 20, 953-968.


Registering your Scoping Review Protocol



Scoping reviews can be registered with the Open Science Framework ( or Figshare (




Resources to Guide you from Start to Finish

Organize your Writing


The PRISMA checklist that contains 22 essential reporting items and 2 optional items to include when writing a scoping review. This checklist also provides tips that further explain how to report these items which you will include when writing your scoping review such as Tip #7 that guides you on how to document and describe your comprehensive literature search strategy. 

This article in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides further explanation of each item (1-22) in the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews and what you need to include when writing and documenting your scoping review.


Organize Yourself:

In Chapter 11 of the JBI (Joanna Briggs Institute) Manual for Evidence Synthesis take a look at the section 11.1.3 for a concise framework for conducting a scoping review.

  1. Framework stage one: Identifying the research question.
    1. Follow the PCC Framework-(Population or participants)/Concept/Context) which is recommended by JBI to identify the main concepts in your primary review questions. The framework will then inform your search strategy. Breaking down your question in this way allows you to check for any potentially missed inclusion and exclusion criteria for your protocol. 
  2. Framework stage two: Identifying relevant studies and literature

  3. Framework stage three: Study selection

  4. Framework stage four: Extracting, mapping and charting the data

  5. Framework stage five: Summarize, synthesize, and report the results from the studies

  6. Framework stage six: Consultation


You are now ready to write up the evidence to answer your question in your scoping review.


The following article (Westphaln et al., 2021)  provides more detail on each step of the six step framework: 

From Arksey and O’Malley and Beyond: Customizations to enhance a team-based, mixed approach to scoping review methodology