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Levy Library Research Synthesis and Systematic Review Services: Scoping Reviews

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What Is a Scoping Review?

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A scoping review is a "preliminary assessment of the potential size and scope of available research literature" on a topic.2 These types of reviews often look at many different study designs and methods, and can include ongoing research. Scoping reviews can be standalone, or used as a tool to assess whether a potential systematic review on a question can be conducted.

Scoping reviews are useful for:

  • Examining a body of literature that has not been comprehensively reviewed
  • Identifying or clarifying key concepts or definitions
  • Seeing how research is conducted on a topic

Limitations of scoping reviews include: 

  • That they generally they do not evaluate the quality of evidence found
  • Having the potential to include a huge number of papers, necessitating having a large study team for screening purposes
  • Possibly requiring several broad searches to focus on several themes
  • That due to their nature, they do not provide answers to focused questions, but give a broad overview


  1. Arksey H, O'Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International journal of social research methodology. 2005 Feb 1;8(1):19-32.
  2. Grant MJ, Booth A. A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health information & libraries journal. 2009 Jun;26(2):91-108.
  3. Munn Z, Peters MD, Stern C, Tufanaru C, McArthur A, Aromataris E. Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC medical research methodology. 2018 Dec;18(1):1-7.
  4. Peters MD, Marnie C, Tricco AC, Pollock D, Munn Z, Alexander L, McInerney P, Godfrey CM, Khalil H. Updated methodological guidance for the conduct of scoping reviews. JBI evidence synthesis. 2020 Oct 1;18(10):2119-26.
  5. Sucharew H, Macaluso M. Progress notes: methods for research evidence synthesis: the scoping review approach. Journal of hospital medicine. 2019 Jul 1;14(7):416-8.
  6. Thomas A, Lubarsky S, Durning SJ, Young ME. Knowledge syntheses in medical education: demystifying scoping reviews. Academic Medicine. 2017 Feb 1;92(2):161-6.

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PRISMA Guidelines

Although many aspects of PRISMA are intended for systematic reviews, there is also a checklist specifically for scoping reviews. In addition, many of the other extensions can be useful for scoping reviews, modifying when necessary.