Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Ask a Librarian

Systematic Review Resources

What is a Scoping Review


In a scoping review, there is a research question that requires an answer. But unlike a systematic review, there is no rigorous  critical appraisal.

Its purpose is to identify what needs further research. They can be conducted prior to any new scientific project to assess research need and/or scope of the project. ​Scoping reviews serve to synthesize evidence and assess the scope of literature on a topic. Among other objectives, scoping reviews help determine whether a systematic review of the literature is warranted.

And whereas a systematic review rigorously analyzes the data, a scoping review focuses on a descriptive characterization of the data. 

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 analyse 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.

Resources to Guide you from Start to Finish

Organize your Writing

Download 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 on these items which you will include when writing your scoping review such as Tip #7 that guides you on how to report on your comprehensive literature search strategy. 

Chapter 11 on Scoping Reviews of the JBI (Joanna Briggs Institute) Manual for Evidence Synthesis provides guidelines on conducting a scoping review. Also in this chapter, take a look at chapter 11.1.3 for a concise framework for conducting a scoping review.

This short article in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides further explanation of the reporting items needed.

This article will provide a streamlined approach to organizing your paper.


Organize Yourself:

The Six Steps from Start to Finish

  1. Framework stage one: Identifying the research question.
    1. Follow the PCC Framework. PCC (Population (or participants)/Concept/Context) framework 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 two articles provide more detail on these organizational frameworks and what goes in to each step when conducting your scoping review:

  1. Article that outlines the basic six steps needed to start and complete scoping review.
  2. Most detailed and comprehensive framework on the steps needed to start and complete a scoping review.





Registering your Scoping Review Protocol


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


For scoping reviews, the Joanna Briggs Institute provides guidance for writing a protocol in section 11.2 of their chapter on scoping reviews.

The scoping review protocol predefines the objectives and methods of the scoping review and details the proposed plans. Whereas deviations from a review protocol for a traditional systematic review are rare, due to the more iterative nature of a scoping review, some changes may be necessary. Any discrepancies should still be clearly detailed and justified in the ‘Methods’ section of the scoping review report, if and when they occur.

In general, your protocol should have the following elements:

  • Background literature review
  • Review question
  • Criteria for inclusion/exclusion of studies
  • Types of studies, populations, interventions/exposures, outcome measures
  • Search strategy for identification of studies
  • Study selection methods
  • Assessment of methodological quality (if applicable)
  • Data extraction and synthesis
  • Timeframe for conducting the review


Key Protocol Elements


According to the JBI Reviewer’s Manual (chapter 11.2), a scoping review protocol should include:

1.  An introduction detailing:

  • definitions
  • overall review objective
  • details of any preliminary searches undertaken
  • explanation of need for review
  • eligibility criteria (with contextualization and rationalization)


 2.   Sample search strategy 

  3.  Explanation of search approach, including:

  • which black and grey literature will be searched 
  • justification for choices

   4. Study selection process, including resolving disagreements between reviewers

   5. A draft charting table/form for data extraction and accompanying explanation

   6. How results and data will be presented (e.g. draft chart, figure or table)