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Scoping Reviews


Steps in the Process

Based on the Joanna Briggs Institute's Reviews Manual, Arksey & O'Malley (2005), and Cochrane Institute guidelines, there are 5 steps for conducting scoping reviews. 

  1. Develop & register a protocol
    • State a clear research question
    • Define eligibility criteria
  2. Search the literature
    • Database searching (at least 3 databases, including one multi-disciplinary)
    • Supplementary searching
  3. Study Selection (2 or more reviewers)
    • Title and abstract screening
    • Full text screening
  4. Charting included sources (2 or more reviewers)
    • Chart characteristics of studies (form established a priori)
    • Code sheet
  5. Report results, implications, and recommendations

Tip: Be sure to be realistic about the amount of time it will take to conduct a thorough scoping review. While these types of reviews don't include the same level of assessment or data analysis and synthesis as a systematic review, the broad nature of a scoping review typically results in far more identified studies to be screened. A typical scoping review takes a 3-member team about a year to complete.


Which guidelines should you follow?

Which guidelines you choose and how rigorously you follow them will depend on your topic and where you intend to publish. Be sure to look at other reviews published in your target journals and see what guidelines and standards they use.

Are you planning to publish in a traditional social work journal? Take a look at Campbell's recommendations and follow the process they outline for conducting a review.

Are you hoping to publish in a medical or health journal? I'd recommend downloading RevMan5 and closely following the Cochrane review process.

Not sure? Schedule a consultation with a librarian to discuss the possibilities.

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