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. 2014 Dec;5(4):371-85.
doi: 10.1002/jrsm.1123. Epub 2014 Jul 24.

A Scoping Review of Scoping Reviews: Advancing the Approach and Enhancing the Consistency

Free PMC article

A Scoping Review of Scoping Reviews: Advancing the Approach and Enhancing the Consistency

Mai T Pham et al. Res Synth Methods. .
Free PMC article


Background: The scoping review has become an increasingly popular approach for synthesizing research evidence. It is a relatively new approach for which a universal study definition or definitive procedure has not been established. The purpose of this scoping review was to provide an overview of scoping reviews in the literature.

Methods: A scoping review was conducted using the Arksey and O'Malley framework. A search was conducted in four bibliographic databases and the gray literature to identify scoping review studies. Review selection and characterization were performed by two independent reviewers using pretested forms.

Results: The search identified 344 scoping reviews published from 1999 to October 2012. The reviews varied in terms of purpose, methodology, and detail of reporting. Nearly three-quarter of reviews (74.1%) addressed a health topic. Study completion times varied from 2 weeks to 20 months, and 51% utilized a published methodological framework. Quality assessment of included studies was infrequently performed (22.38%).

Conclusions: Scoping reviews are a relatively new but increasingly common approach for mapping broad topics. Because of variability in their conduct, there is a need for their methodological standardization to ensure the utility and strength of evidence.

Keywords: knowledge synthesis; literature review; methodology; scoping review.


Figure 1
Figure 1
PRISMA flowchart of study selection process.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Bubble plot of scoping reviews published by year and sector. The size of a bubble is proportional to the number of scoping reviews published in the year and sector corresponding to the bubble coordinates.

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