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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

This guide will help you get started with your next systematic review, scoping review, or other review types.

Other names for a Scoping Review

Scoping Study, Systematic Scoping Review, Scoping Report, Scope of the Evidence, Rapid Scoping Review, Structured Literature Review, Scoping Project, Scoping Meta Review

Limitations of a Scoping Review

  • Is not easier than a systematic review.
  • Is not faster than a systematic review, may take longer.
  • More citations to screen
  • Different screening criteria/process than a systematic review
  • Often leads to a broader, less defined search.
  • Requires multiple structured searches instead of one.
  • Increased emphasis for hand searching the literature.
  • May require larger teams because of larger volume of literature.
  • Inconsistency in the conduct of scoping reviews.

What is a Scoping Review?

"Scoping reviews have great utility for synthesizing research evidence and are often used to [categorize or group] existing literature in a given field in terms of its nature, features, and volume."  Note: Often a scoping review is confused with a mapping review.  They are two different review types.  Scoping reviews are more topic based and mapping reviews are more question based. 

According to Grant and Booth (2009), Scoping reviews are "preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of available research literature.  Aims to identify nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research)."

Scoping Reviews are best designed for:

"When a body of literature has not yet been comprehensively reviewed, or exhibits a large, complex, or heterogeneous nature not amenable to a more precise systematic review."

  • Label body of literature with relevance to time, location (e.g. country or context), source (e.g. peer-reviewed or grey literature), and origin (e.g. healthcare discipline or academic field) 
  • Clarify working definitions and conceptual boundaries of a topic or field
  • Identify gaps in existing literature/research

(Peters M, Godfrey C, Khalil H, et al)

Hierarchy of evidence for review types

What is a Scoping Review? Outline of Stages

Timeframe: 12+ months, (same amount of time as a systematic review or longer)   *Varies beyond the type of review. Depends on many factors such as but not limited to: resources available, the quantity and quality of the literature, and the expertise or experience of reviewers" (Grant et al. 2009)

Question: Answers broader and topic focused questions beyond those relating to the effectiveness of treatments or interventions.  A priori review protocol is recommended. 

Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more about Reviews of Complex Interventions

Sources and searches: Comprehensive search-may be limited by time/scope restraints, still aims to be thorough and repeatable of all literature.  May involve multiple structured searches rather than a single structured search.  This will produce more results than a systematic review.  Must include a modified PRISMA flow diagram.

See our Systematic Review Search Service for help conducting the search!

Selection: Based on inclusion/exclusion criteria, due to the iterative nature of a scoping review some changes may be necessary.  May require more time spent screening articles due to the larger volume of results from broader questions.

Appraisal: Critical appraisal (optional), Risk of Bias assessment (optional) is not applicable for scoping reviews. 

Synthesis: (Tabular with some narrative) The extraction of data for a scoping review may include a charting table or form but a formal synthesis of findings from individual studies and the generation of a 'summary of findings' (SOF) table is not required.  Results may include a logical diagram or table or any descriptive form that aligns with the scope and objectives of the review.  May incorporate a numerical summary and qualitative thematic analysis.

Consultation: (optional) 

(Sources: MDJ Peters et al. (2015), Levac et al. (2010))


Munn Z, Peters M, Stern C, et al. Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approachBMC Medical Research Methodology. 2018;18:143.

Peters, Micah D.J., Godfrey, Christina; McInerney, Patricia; Khalil, Hanan; Larsen, Palle; Marnie, Casey; Pollock, Danielle; Tricco, Andrea C.; Munn, Zachary Best Practice Guidance and Reporting Items for the Development of Scoping Review Protocols. JBI Evidence Synthesis, February 09, 2022. 

Peters M, Marnie C, Tricco A, et al. Updated Methodological Guidance for the Conduct of Scoping Reviews.  JBI Evidence Implementation. 2021;19:3-10.

Peters M, Godfrey C, Khalil H, et al. Guidance for Conducting Systematic Scoping Reviews.  Int J Evid Based Healthc. 2015;13:141-146.

Morris M, Boruff J, and G Gore.  Scoping Reviews: establishing the role of the librarian.  J Med Lib Assoc. 2016;104(4):346-353.

Khalil H, Peters M, Godfrey C, et al.  An Evidence-Based Approach to Scoping Reviews.  Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing. 2016;00:0,1-6.

Arksey H. and O'Malley L. Scoping Studies: towards a methodological frameworkInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2005;8(1):19-32.

Pham MT, Rajic A, Greig JD, et al. A Scoping Review of Scoping Reviews: advancing the approach and enhancing the consistency. Research Synthesis Methods. 2014;5(4):371-385.

Levac D, Colquhoun H, O'Brien K.  Scoping Studies: Advancing the Methodology. Implementation Science. 2010; 5(1).