This guide covers the process, methods, resources, and support for conducting scoping reviews at UNC, including how scoping reviews compare to other types of literature reviews, the steps to complete a scoping review, and how the Health Sciences Library can partner with you to ensure successful completion of your review.
From the PRISMA Website:
"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." (PRISMA 2021).
The key characteristics of a scoping review are:
a clearly stated set of objectives with pre-defined eligibility criteria for studies;
an explicit, reproducible methodology;
a comprehensive search that attempts to identify all studies that would meet the eligibility criteria;
Scoping reviews are similar to systematic reviews, but differ primarily in their purpose. While systematic reviews attempt to answer a specific question through a comprehensive synthesis of the literature, scoping reviews attempt to identify the scope of literature available through a comprehensive synthesis.
Consider the following questions before you begin a scoping review.
1. Is your question suited to a scoping review? A question that is well suited to this methodology is:
2. Are you asking a complete question?
Thinking about your PICO (population, intervention(s), comparator(s), and outcomes) and your Key Question(s) will help you to ensure that you have thought of the important parts of your question and are not leaving out anything that may significantly alter your question. You can use the HSL Systematic Review Development Worksheet to help you refine and develop your PICO and Key Questions.
3. Has a recent scoping review already addressed this exact question? Or has a recent systematic review been published on this same topic?
If you determine that your question is suited to a scoping review, you will then want to search for recent or upcoming reviews on your topic or on similar topics, to ensure that your review will not be duplicating someone else's efforts and that you will be adding something new to the literature. A librarian can help you to search for recently published reviews on your topic, as well as searching systematic review protocol registries such as PROSPERO, which will give you an idea of whether or not a review of your topic is likely to be published soon.
4. Do you have the time and resources needed to conduct a scoping review?
A scoping review usually takes 6-12 months, from formulating your question through journal article submission. Input from at least 3 team members is needed, in addition to advice or input from a librarian or team member who is experienced in searching the literature. One team member handles the processes of the review: creating data abstraction forms, keeping track of inclusion/exclusion decisions, handling team communications, managing databases and forms, etc. Two team members perform inclusion/exclusion decision making and data abstraction. The additional team member acts as a tiebreaker in the case of a disagreement. One to two team members analyze the data and write your publication. Depending on the size of the literature, you may want to add additional team members.
5. Can you meet all of the requirements for reporting a complete scoping review detailed in the checklist of the PRISMA extension for Scoping Reviews?
The PRISMA-ScR checklist contains 22 items that each scoping review should report in order to ensure transparency and completion of reporting. These items include parts to include in each section of your review. Using this checklist will help to ensure that the journal you wish to submit to will consider your methods adequate.