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Scoping Reviews: Types of Reviews

Created by Health Science Librarians

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Fill out the Systematic/Scoping Review Request Form and the best-suited librarian will get back to you promptly. Our systematic/ scoping review service is only available to faculty, staff, students, and others who are affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill.

What type of review is right for you?

There are many types of systematized reviews, of which scoping reviews are only one option. Several tools are listed below to help you decide which type of review is best suited for your research.

A decision tree by Cornell University to help one decide which review type may be right for them. Start at the top and answer the yes or no questions until you end on a review type

"Review Methodologies Decision Tree" by Cornell University Library is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

  • Munn Z, Peters MDJ, 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 Med Res Methodol. 2018;18(1):143. doi: 10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x

Scoping reviews vs. other review types

There are a variety of different types of reviews that vary in terms of scope, comprehensiveness, time constraints, and types of studies included. You should choose one that matches the time you would like to spend on the review and the description which best matches your purpose. 

Type of Review Description Time to Complete Search Strategy Other Information
Narrative/Literature Review Collates relevant studies and draws conclusions from them. 2+ months Search strategy not typically reported. Not comprehensive, which could introduce bias. Collins JA, Fauser BC. Balancing the strengths of systematic and narrative reviews. Hum Reprod Update. 2005;11(2):103-104. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmh058
Scoping Review Presents a preliminary assessment of the potential size and scope of available research literature. Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research). 2-6+ months Completeness of searching determined by time/scope constraints. Librarian collaboration recommended.

Arskey H, O'Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. Int J of Soc Research Meth: Theory and Prac. 2005; 8:1. doi:10.1080/1364557032000119616

Peters MDJ, Godfrey C, McInerney P, Munn Z, Tricco AC, Khalil, H. Chapter 11: Scoping Reviews (2020 version). In: Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors). JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis, JBI, 2020. Available from

Joanna Briggs Institute - Scoping Review Network

Daudt HM, van Mossel C, Scott SJ. Enhancing the scoping study methodology: a large, inter-professional team's experience with Arksey and O'Malley's framework. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2013;13:48. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-13-48

Rapid Review Assesses what is already known about a policy or practice issue by using systematic review methods to search and critically appraise existing research. 2-6+ months Completeness of searching determined by time constraints. Librarian collaboration recommended.

Khangura S, Konnyu K, Cushman R, Grimshaw J, Moher D. Evidence summaries: the evolution of a rapid review approach. Syst Rev. 2012;1:10.  doi:10.1186/2046-4053-1-10

Integrative Review Reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated. 2-10+ months Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive search. Librarian collaboration recommended. Whittemore R, Knafl K. The integrative review: updated methodology. J Adv Nurs. 2005;52(5):546-553. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03621.x
Umbrella Review Reviews other systematic reviews and meta-analyses on a topic. Focuses on a broad condition or problem for which there are competing interventions and highlights reviews that address these interventions and their results. 2+ months Identification of component reviews but no search for primary studies. Librarian collaboration recommended. Smith V, Devane D, Begley CM, Clarke M. Methodology in conducting a systematic review of systematic reviews of healthcare interventions. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2011;11(1):15. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-15
Systematic Review Attempts to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. Uses explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias in order to produce more reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. 10-12+ months Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive search. Librarian will develop search strategy and write methods section of manuscript. Lodge M. Conducting a systematic review: finding the evidence. J Evid Based Med. 2011;4(2):135-139. doi:10.1111/j.1756-5391.2011.01130.x
Meta-Analysis A statistical test that combines the results from multiple studies to answer one or more research questions 10-12+ months Aims for exhaustive, comprehensive search. Librarian will develop search strategy and write methods section of manuscript. Møller AM, Myles PS. What makes a good systematic review and meta-analysis?. Br J Anaesth. 2016;117(4):428-430. doi:10.1093/bja/aew264

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