To Scope or Not to Scope?

Article Summary: Scoping vs. Systematic Reviews

CHI KT Platform
Dec 3, 2018 · 5 min read

Defining the Terms

In this article, the authors broadly define systematic reviews as “a type of research synthesis that is conducted by review groups with specialized skills, who set out to identify and retrieve international evidence that is relevant to a particular question or questions, and to appraise and synthesize the results of this search to inform practice, policy and in some cases, further research.” They go on to note that the Cochrane handbook states that a systematic review “uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view to minimizing bias, thus providing more reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made.”

Table 1: Defining characteristics of traditional literature reviews, scoping reviews, and systematic reviews (https://bmcmedresmethodol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x) by Munn et al. is licensed under CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Indications for Scoping and Systematic Reviews

The authors argue that although both types of review can be valid, rigorous, and warranted, the indications for when to use a scoping review have been inconsistent and confusing to date. The comparison below outlines the authors’ suggested implications for each style of review. Within the article, they delve further into each implication for a scoping review and provide examples for researchers considering the scoping approach.

Our summary of the authors’ indications for scoping vs. systematic reviews

When NOT to Choose a Scoping Review

The authors also spend time examining the misuse of scoping reviews and situations when they are not indicated. These include:

  • In order to map the literature on a particular topic that does not need mapping; or
  • As a way to investigate broad questions instead of investing time and effort required in crafting the more specific questions required of a systematic review.

Moving Forward

For researchers struggling to determine whether a scoping or a systematic review is warranted, this article offers an excellent starting point for examining the motives and indications of the research in order to determine a path forward.


About the Author

Carly Leggett is the Manager and Practice Lead for the Knowledge Translation platform at the George & Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI), as well as Knowledge Broker for Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK).

KnowledgeNudge

Publishing bi-weekly, we focus on all things knowledge translation (KT) – synthesis, exchange, application & dissemination – from a health perspective. Topics include the science of KT, patient engagement, and media & dissemination.

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Know-do gaps. Integrated KT. Patient & public engagement. KT research. Multimedia tools & dissemination. And the occasional puppy.

KnowledgeNudge

Publishing bi-weekly, we focus on all things knowledge translation (KT) – synthesis, exchange, application & dissemination – from a health perspective. Topics include the science of KT, patient engagement, and media & dissemination.