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What Is A Scoping Review – Meaning And Examples

Published by at December 28th, 2023 , Revised On February 5, 2024

The world of research is vast, varied, and continually evolving. As scholars seek to contribute novel findings to their respective fields, reviewing, synthesising, and understanding the existing body of literature becomes paramount. Reviews come in various flavours, such as rapid reviews or meta-synthesis, and one lesser-known but increasingly important type is the scoping review.

What Is Scoping Review

A scoping review is a type of literature review that aims to provide a preliminary assessment of the size and scope of available research literature. It offers a clear overview of a field’s breadth (and sometimes depth) without necessarily delving into the details of individual study quality or aggregating results. Think of it as a way to map the existing literature on a topic to identify gaps, trends, and the volume of available research.

Scoping Review Example

Title: Telemedicine in the Management of Chronic Diseases: A Scoping Review

Objective: To provide an overview of the current state of research on the application and effectiveness of telemedicine for managing chronic diseases.


  • Search Strategy: Databases searched include PubMed, EMBASE, and Google Scholar from January 2000 to January 2023.
  • Inclusion Criteria: Articles that discussed telemedicine applications, platforms, and outcomes in the context of chronic disease management.
  • Exclusion Criteria: Studies that focused on acute conditions, reviews, and non-English articles.


Total Identified Records: 1,200

Total Included Records: 150

Types of Chronic Diseases Studied:

  • Diabetes (40 studies)
  • Hypertension (30 studies)
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (20 studies)
  • Others (60 studies)

Types of Telemedicine Tools Used:

  • Video Consultations (80 studies)
  • Remote Monitoring Devices (50 studies)
  • Mobile Health Apps (20 studies)

Reported Outcomes:

  • Improved medication adherence (60 studies)
  • Decreased hospital admissions (40 studies)
  • Enhanced patient-provider communication (50 studies)

General Observations: The majority of the studies reported positive outcomes associated with the use of telemedicine for managing chronic diseases. Diabetes and hypertension were the most commonly studied conditions.

Knowledge Gaps: Few studies addressed the cost-effectiveness of telemedicine tools. There was also limited research on patient satisfaction and the integration of telemedicine into primary care workflows.

Conclusion: Telemedicine appears promising in the management of chronic diseases, especially diabetes and hypertension. Future research should address the identified knowledge gaps and explore other chronic conditions not yet studied extensively.

Key Characteristics Of A Scoping Review

Here are the characteristics of a scoping review. 

Preliminary Exploration

Scoping reviews serve as an initial exploration of the available literature on a specific topic, especially when researchers are in the early stages of understanding that subject. The reason for this preliminary exploration is twofold.

Firstly, there might be ambiguity regarding the volume and extent of existing literature on a given subject. 

Secondly, scoping reviews are particularly beneficial for either emerging or multifaceted topics that haven’t been thoroughly reviewed in the past. Hence, by performing a scoping review, researchers can gauge the scope of existing research and decide the next steps, be it a more detailed systematic review or identifying gaps in the current knowledge.

Breadth Over Depth

Scoping reviews differ from systematic reviews in their approach to analysing the available literature. While systematic reviews are characterised by a meticulous examination of study quality, aiming to aggregate or synthesise results potentially, scoping reviews prioritise covering a broader spectrum of information. Rather than diving deep into each study, scoping reviews offer a panoramic snapshot of the existing literature.

This broad overview allows researchers to identify a field’s overarching themes, methodologies, and findings, painting a comprehensive picture of what’s known and where potential gaps might lie.

No Quality Appraisal

One of the defining characteristics of scoping reviews is the absence of a quality appraisal for the studies they encompass. This starkly contrasts with systematic reviews, which thoroughly assess the quality and reliability of included studies. The primary reason for this distinction is the objective of a scoping review. 

Scoping reviews aim to present an all-encompassing overview of the literature, regardless of the quality or depth of individual studies. Their primary purpose is not to judge the merits or rigours of studies, but to provide a descriptive account of the research landscape.

Inclusive And Broad

Scoping reviews are known for their inclusive approach to literature selection, reflecting their goal of breadth over depth. This inclusivity means they often encompass diverse study designs, methodologies, and research approaches. By casting such a wide net, scoping reviews ensure they capture a research topic‘s multifaceted nature. 

This broad approach provides a holistic view of the subject and allows researchers to recognise and appreciate the varied perspectives and methodologies employed in a field. This inclusivity makes scoping reviews a valuable tool for researchers embarking on a new or complex topic.

Why Conduct A Scoping Review?

There are several reasons a researcher might choose to conduct a scoping review:

  • Identify the Scope of Literature: To understand how much research exists on a topic, evaluate sources, and what types of studies dominate the field.
  • Determine the Value of a Full Review: Before investing the time and resources into a full systematic review, a scoping review can help determine its worth.
  • Inform Research Direction: By understanding what’s already out there, researchers can identify gaps in the literature and shape the direction of their primary research.
  • Aid in Decision-Making: Policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders can use scoping reviews to understand a topic’s research landscape quickly.

Steps In Conducting A Scoping Review

Here are the steps typically involved in conducting a scoping review:

Step 1: Identifying The Research Question

This is often broader in nature for a scoping review compared to systematic reviews. For example, “What interventions have been studied for the treatment of X condition?” rather than “Is treatment A more effective than treatment B for condition X?” This will also help you in developing an effective research strategy

Step 2: Defining Inclusion And Exclusion Criteria

Clearly define which studies will be included or excluded based on factors such as publication date, type of study, population, and outcomes.

Step 3: Searching For Relevant Studies

  • Identify relevant databases (e.g., PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science).
  • Develop a search strategy using keywords and Boolean operators.
  • Perform the search and document the results.

Step 4: Selecting Studies

  • Review titles and abstracts to exclude irrelevant studies.
  • Obtain and review full-text articles to determine final inclusion.

Step 5: Charting The Data

This involves extracting relevant information from the included studies and managing sources. Create a data charting form to capture information like study design, population, intervention, outcomes, and key findings.

Step 6: Collating, Summarizing, And Reporting The Results

  • Present an overview of the number and types of studies included.
  • Describe the main findings and any patterns or trends.
  • Create tables or figures to represent the data visually.

Step 7: Consultation (Optional But Recommended)

Engage stakeholders (e.g., experts, patients, policymakers) to provide insights or feedback on the preliminary results. This can add depth and relevance to the findings.

Step 8: Discussion And Implications

Discuss the main findings, their implications, and any potential gaps in the literature. This can guide future research efforts.

Step 9: Limitations

Acknowledge any limitations of your scoping review, such as publication bias or the exclusion of non-English articles.

Step 10: Conclusion

Sum up the key points from your review, the current state of the literature on the topic, and potential directions for future research.

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Examples Of Scoping Reviews

To illustrate the utility and diversity of scoping reviews, let’s delve into some real-world examples:

Mental Health Apps

A researcher might conduct a scoping review to explore the types and features of mental health apps available in app stores, understanding their functionalities, target audiences, and underlying psychological theories.

Educational Methods in Virtual Reality

Given the rapid advancements in VR technology, a scoping review might be conducted to gauge how VR is being used in educational settings, the subjects it’s being applied to, and the outcomes of such interventions.

Sustainability Practices in Small Businesses

As sustainability becomes a hot topic, a researcher might want to understand how small businesses are implementing sustainable practices, what challenges they face, and the range of reported outcomes.

Dietary Trends and Nutritional Health

To understand the landscape of evolving dietary trends, a scoping review could be conducted to identify popular diets, their nutritional implications, and their impact on long-term health.


Scoping reviews, emphasising breadth, play a crucial role in the academic and policy landscape. They provide a rapid and broad understanding of a topic, making them invaluable tools for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike. 

As the pace of research accelerates and fields become even more interdisciplinary, mapping and understanding the existing body of work cannot be overstated. In this light, the scoping review is an essential tool in the modern researcher’s toolkit.

Frequently Asked Questions

A scoping review is a type of research synthesis that aims to map the key concepts, types of evidence, and gaps in a specific research area. Unlike systematic reviews, which assess the quality and synthesise findings of studies, scoping reviews provide an overview of the existing literature regardless of study quality.

A scoping review maps key concepts, evidence types, and research gaps without appraising study quality. It provides an overview of existing literature in a field. A systematic review, on the other hand, rigorously assesses and synthesises findings from selected studies based on predefined criteria, ensuring a high level of evidence quality.

Yes, a scoping review is a research methodology used to provide a preliminary assessment of the size and scope of available research literature. It maps key concepts, sources, and gaps without necessarily delving deep into quality appraisal. The process is systematic, ensuring a broad overview of the topic in question.

A scoping review maps the breadth of literature, identifying key concepts and research gaps without detailed quality appraisal. A narrative review offers a descriptive summary of topics, often lacking systematic methods. A systematic review rigorously assesses and synthesises research findings based on predefined criteria, ensuring evidence quality and reducing bias.

No, a scoping review and meta-analysis are distinct. A scoping review maps the literature, identifying key concepts and gaps, without a detailed quality appraisal. A meta-analysis is a statistical method used in systematic reviews to combine and analyse quantitative results from multiple studies to produce a single summary effect size.

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