There are two kinds of reviews. Scoping reviews are more topic-oriented, whereas mapping reviews are more question-oriented. Scoping reviews, according to Grant and Booth (2009), are "preliminary assessments of the prospective amount and scope of accessible research material." They aim to identify all studies that fit certain criteria by scanning through abstracts or full-text articles. After selecting the relevant studies, they analyze them in detail. The main difference between a scoping review and a systematic review is that the former does not require any set time period for publication dates or inclusion/exclusion criteria. It also allows for broader topics than systematic reviews.
Scoping reviews can be used to answer specific questions about a field of study or program. For example, Boyer et al. (2008) conducted a scoping review on domestic violence prevention programs for school staff. They wanted to know what types of programs exist and what effects they may have on students. The authors stated that no previous work had mapped out all such programs so their study was considered important first step toward identifying gaps in knowledge and priorities for future research.
Scoping reviews can also be used when there is no clear question that needs answering but data collection should still be performed consistently across a large body of literature. For example, Huxley et al. (2011) conducted a scoping review on the effects of music education programs for children with autism spectrum disorders.
When a body of literature has not yet been thoroughly examined, or when it is huge, complicated, or diverse, it cannot be subjected to a more exact systematic review. The goal of this type of review is to determine which studies have been done on which topic, rather than to find all the effects of a single study.
They are different from systematic reviews in that they do not evaluate the quality of the evidence found but try to provide an overview of the subject. Scoping reviews do not seek out unpublished studies or studies in languages other than English. Instead, they examine the available literature to see what has already been published on the topic at hand.
Furthermore, they do not follow a specific protocol for searching, selecting studies, or analyzing the data. Rather, the approach taken by the reviewer depends on the nature of the topic under examination. For example, if there are few existing studies on a particular question, then a scoping review may include all studies of any design. By contrast, if there are many existing studies on a topic, a scoping review might only include those studies with a qualitative design or that use experimental or observational methods.
Finally, scoping reviews do not always produce definitive results.
A scoping review is a sort of research synthesis that tries to "map the literature on a certain issue or research area and give a chance to identify significant concepts; gaps in the research; and forms and sources of evidence to influence practice, policymaking, and research." In other words, it is an overview of what has been published on a topic.
Scoping reviews are useful for identifying evidence that may not be available in full-length studies or that is difficult to obtain in such studies. The aim is not to produce a definitive list of all relevant research but rather to describe the range of topics that have been investigated within a specific context. As such, they are suitable for assessing the state of knowledge on a subject and for identifying research needs. Scoping reviews can also help determine whether there is enough evidence to conduct a full-scale systematic review by narrowing the number of studies that need to be examined in detail.
How is scoping different from systematic reviewing? While both scoping and systematic reviews start with an explicit question, they approach this question through very different methods. A scoping review is conducted qualitatively, exploring many different sources and types of evidence, while a systematic review is based on quantifiable criteria and aims to reduce bias by selecting only studies that meet certain standards.
Who conducts scoping reviews? Anyone with sufficient expertise in the field can conduct a scoping review.