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Stony Brook University

Scoping Review Guide

This guide covers all of the information you need to know in order to prepare for and conduct a scoping review.

Laurel Scheinfeld

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Laurel Scheinfeld
Health Sciences Library
Health Sciences Tower, Floor 3, Rm 136
Stony Brook University
Subjects: Health Sciences, STEM

What is a Scoping Review?

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

Scoping Reviews are best: 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. They are used to map existing literature in terms of nature, features, and volume. Scoping reviews clarify working definitions and conceptual boundaries of a topic or field and identify gaps in existing literature/research. (Peters M, Godfrey C, Khalil H, et al) Scoping reviews may be used as the precursor to a systematic review. (Munn et al., 2018)


Current standards and guidelines

The Joanna Briggs Institute's (JBI) approach is widely considered the standard. It aims to consolidate and build on earlier works describing scoping review methodologies. JBI is a global organization promoting and supporting evidence-based decisions that improve health and health service delivery.

The PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR) is a guideline for reporting scoping reviews which was published in 2018. The checklist contains 20 essential reporting items and 2 optional items to include when completing a scoping review. 

Before Starting on a Review

Before embarking on a scoping review,

1) Make sure that a recent scoping or systematic review on the same topic has not already been published, and

2) Check for protocols that would indicate similar work is in progress.  Protocols can be registered and/or published.

To check for published reviews, search journal databases such as MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and even Google Scholar (to catch any journal content that is not covered in bibliographic databases). You can also check Epistemonikos (an open source database of health evidence), Campbell Collaboration (systematic reviews on effectiveness of social interventions), FigShareOSF (research repositories) or MedRXiv (a preprint server).  Journals that publish scoping review protocols include BMJ Open and Systematic Reviews, among others. Registries include the JBI Review Registry.


You should consider registering and/or publishing your own Scoping Review Protocol once you've established your Plan.