Priority domains, aims, and testable hypotheses for implementation research: Protocol for a scoping review and evidence map

Syst Rev. 2020 Dec 3;9(1):277. doi: 10.1186/s13643-020-01535-y.


Background: The challenge of implementing evidence-based innovations within practice settings is a significant public health issue that the field of implementation research (IR) is focused on addressing. Significant amounts of funding, time, and effort have been invested in IR to date, yet there remains significant room for advancement, especially regarding IR's development of scientific theories as defined by the National Academy of Sciences (i.e., a comprehensive explanation of the relationship between variables that is supported by a vast body of evidence). Research priority setting (i.e., promoting consensus about areas where research effort will have wide benefits to society) is a key approach to helping accelerate research advancements. Thus, building upon existing IR, general principles of data reduction, and a general framework for moderated mediation, this article identifies four priority domains, three priority aims, and four testable hypotheses for IR, which we organize in the priority aims and testable hypotheses (PATH) diagram.

Methods: The objective of this scoping review is to map the extent to which IR has examined the identified PATH priorities to date. Our sample will include IR published in leading implementation-focused journals (i.e., Implementation Science, Implementation Science Communications, and Implementation Research and Practice) between their inception and December 2020. The protocol for the current scoping review and evidence map has been developed in accordance with the approach developed by Arksey and O'Malley and advanced by Levac, Colquhoun, and O'Brien. Because scoping reviews seek to provide an overview of the identified evidence base rather than synthesize findings from across studies, we plan to use our data-charting form to provide a descriptive overview of implementation research to date and summarize the research via one or more summary tables. We will use the PATH diagram to organize a map of the evidence to date.

Discussion: This scoping review and evidence map is intended to help accelerate IR focused on suggested priority aims and testable hypotheses, which in turn will accelerate IR's development of National Academy of Sciences-defined scientific theories and, subsequently, improvements in public health.

Systematic review registration: Open Science Framework

Keywords: Implementation research; Implementation science; Priority setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • United States