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Scoping Reviews



While not all publishers require a registered protocol, having one is best practice for Scoping Reviews. A priori protocols also provide the added benefit of helping to outline the full process in advance so that you have a plan to follow.

A protocol includes a research question, a search strategy, inclusion criteria, and a plan for extracting and charting the data.


Types of Research Questions for Scoping Reviews

Scoping Reviews are broad by nature. As the name suggests, their purpose is to identify the scope of the literature on a topic. Therefore, the research questions that a Scoping Review can answer are also broad. Questions appropriate for Scoping Review methodology include:

  • What has been done?
  • What populations have been included?
  • What progress has been made in the research?
  • Does enough literature exist to conduct a systematic review?


What is known from the literature about the use of animal-assisted therapies in people with mood disorders?

Developing your Research Question

Formulating a research question (RQ) may require some initial searching on your topic, especially if it is one you haven't already researched. There are three primary elements of a Scoping Review RQ. However, not all RQs need to include all 3:

  1. Population
  2. Intervention
  3. Outcome

As you develop your research question, it is helpful to define your key concepts. This will help with the development of your inclusion criteria as well as your search strategy.

For example, what do you mean by adolescent? What age range are you including?

If you would like further help formulating your RQ, there are frameworks that can help as well as provide the foundational elements for your search strategy. Most of these frameworks were developed for the more specific RQs involved in Systematic Reviews, but they can also be helpful in thinking through your Scoping Review RQ.

Determine team and roles

Another part of your protocol is identifying in advance which parts of the review will be completed by individual team members. There are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • 3+ team members involved in study selection process
  • 2+ team members involved in data charting
  • Librarian involvement, including peer review of search strategies using PRESS guidelines, see Librarian Support page for more information

A priori protocols

"As with all well-conducted systematic reviews, an a priori protocol must be developed before undertaking the scoping review. A scoping review protocol is important, as it pre-defines the objectives, methods, and reporting of the review and allows for transparency of the process. The protocol should detail the criteria that the reviewers intend to use to include and exclude sources of evidence and to identify what data is relevant, and how the data will be extracted and presented. The protocol provides the plan for the scoping review and is important in limiting the occurrence of reporting bias. Any deviations of the scoping review from the protocol should be clearly highlighted and explained in the scoping review."

Register Your Protocol

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