Home > Resources > Academic Research > What is a Scoping Review – Meaning and Examples

Published by at November 2nd, 2023 , Revised On November 2, 2023

What is a Scoping Review – Meaning and Examples

To synthesise and comprehend the body of current literature in the always-changing environment of academic research, a variety of approaches and review styles are used. The scoping review is one such technique that is gaining popularity. The definition, goal, and examples of scoping reviews will be covered in detail in this extensive guide, along with how they differ from systematic reviews. Understanding the subtleties of scoping reviews can be helpful in your quest for knowledge, whether you are an experienced researcher or just starting out in academic research. So, let’s talk about the nuances of this research methodology.

Defining Scoping Reviews

A scoping review is a systematic approach to mapping and categorising existing literature on a specific topic or research question. 

Scoping reviews employ a broader viewpoint than standard systematic reviews, which have a narrow focus and try to address well-defined concerns. They are intended to give a summary of the evidence that is currently available, identify knowledge gaps, and clarify essential terms or definitions relating to a specific issue.

Important Features of Scope Reviews

It’s critical to think about a scoping review’s major attributes in order to comprehend what sets it apart from other review methodologies:

  • Investigative Nature
  • Scoping reviews are excellent for new disciplines or subjects with a wide spectrum of research because they are exploratory in nature.
  • Inclusive Strategy
  • To provide a complete picture, they use a variety of research evidence, such as empirical studies, reviews, and grey literature.
  • Clarification Of Concepts 
  • Scoping reviews frequently seek to define terms or concepts within a subject, particularly where there is confusion or disagreement.
  • Systematic Approaches 
  • Scoping reviews adhere to a systematic and rigorous approach to data gathering and analysis, although not being as constrictive as systematic reviews.
  • Mapping the Literature
  • One of the main objectives is to map the current literature in order to pinpoint trends, gaps, and potential study areas.

Now that we clearly understand what a scoping review is let’s explore how to perform one effectively.

Guidelines for a Scoping Review

A scoping review must be carefully planned and carried out. Here is a detailed explanation of how to do a scoping review:

Step 1: Define the Research Question

Create a precise and succinct research question or objective to start. This query should guide your entire scope review procedure.

Step 2: Finding Relevant Literature 

Conduct a thorough search of academic databases like PubMed, Scopus, or Web of Science to discover relevant articles and literature related to your research issue.

Step 3: Select Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Establish standards for research’s inclusion or exclusion based on their applicability, publication date, study design, and other considerations. Be open and honest about these requirements to ensure the review can be replicated.

Step 4: Data Extraction

Systematically collect information about the important findings, research features, and any pertinent data from the studies you’ve chosen. Use spreadsheets or software tools to manage and organise your data.

Step 5: Charting the Data

Create visual representations of the retrieved data using tables, graphs, or diagrams. This aids in successfully mapping and summarising the literature.

Step 6: Collate, Summarise, and Report

Describe the main conclusions drawn from the studies you included. Pay attention to the literature’s themes, patterns, and gaps. Give a concise and thorough summary of the present state of knowledge on the subject.

Step 7: Feedback and Consultation

To validate your findings and make sure you haven’t overlooked any important literature or opinions, think about involving experts or stakeholders in the topic.

Step 8: Write the Scoping Review Report

Create a report with a clear structure that contains parts for the introduction, methods, findings, discussion, and conclusion. The goals, procedures, and conclusions of your scoping review should be described in detail.

Step 9: Identify Implications and Future Research Directions

Discuss the research, practice, and policy ramifications of your scoping review’s results. Point out areas that require more study and offer potential research questions.

Step 10: Publication and Peer Review

Send your scoping review to a respectable academic journal for peer assessment. To improve the quality of your review, respond to any comments made by reviewers and editors.

Conducting a scoping review calls for effort, attention to detail, and a dedication to methodology transparency. It is a useful tool for outlining the terrain of research on a certain subject.

Scoping review Examples

Let’s look at a few instances from various fields to demonstrate the use of scoping reviews in academic research:

Example 1: Healthcare

Title: “A Scoping Review of Telemedicine in Rural Healthcare Delivery”

Objective: This study aims to map the existing literature on the application of telemedicine in rural healthcare settings and to pinpoint major issues, difficulties, and knowledge gaps.

Findings: The scoping review identified a growing body of literature on telemedicine in rural areas, with key themes including improved access to care, cost-effectiveness, and challenges related to technology infrastructure. Research gaps included the need for more studies on patient outcomes and the cultural adaptation of telemedicine services.

Example 2: Environmental Science

Title: “Scoping the Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity in Tropical Rainforests”

Objective: To provide an overview of existing research on the effects of climate change on biodiversity in tropical rainforests and identify knowledge gaps.

Findings: The scoping review revealed a significant body of literature on this topic, focusing on species diversity, habitat loss, and conservation strategies. Knowledge gaps were identified in terms of long-term monitoring data and the impact of specific climate change variables on different species.

Example 3: Education

Title: “Scoping Review of Blended Learning Approaches in Higher Education”

Objective: To map the literature on blended learning in higher education, identify best practices, and explore the impact on student learning outcomes.

Findings: The scoping review highlighted a range of blended learning models and their effectiveness in enhancing student engagement and outcomes. Best practices included clear course design, student support, and faculty training. However, the review also identified a need for more empirical studies on the topic.

Scoping Review Vs. Systematic Review

It’s essential to distinguish between scoping reviews and systematic reviews, as these two methodologies serve distinct purposes in academic research.

Scoping Review

  • Broad Focus: Scoping reviews have a broader focus and aim to provide an overview of the existing literature on a topic.
  • Exploratory: They are exploratory in nature and often used when the research question is not well-defined.
  • Inclusion of Diverse Evidence: Scoping reviews include various types of evidence, such as empirical studies, reviews, and grey literature.
  • Mapping the Literature: Their primary goal is to map the literature, identify themes, and highlight gaps for future research.
  • Not Necessarily Quantitative: Scoping reviews may or may not involve quantitative data synthesis.

Systematic Review

  • Narrow Focus: Systematic reviews have a narrow and specific focus, often with well-defined research questions and hypotheses.
  • Exhaustive Search: They require a thorough literature search to identify all relevant studies.
  • Inclusion Criteria Strictly Applied: Systematic reviews apply strict inclusion and exclusion criteria to select studies that meet predefined quality and relevance standards.
  • Quantitative Synthesis: They typically involve quantitatively synthesising data through meta-analysis, when applicable.
  • Answering Specific Questions: Systematic reviews aim to answer specific research questions and provide evidence-based recommendations.

In summary, while scoping reviews are valuable for mapping the research landscape and identifying gaps, systematic reviews focus more on answering specific research questions with a higher degree of methodological rigour.


Reviewing the scope has become a crucial technique in academic research. Researchers can efficiently map the body of literature, define essential concepts, and pinpoint research gaps thanks to their inquisitive and thorough nature. Researchers can use the power of this methodology to increase knowledge in their respective domains by learning how to conduct a scoping review and differentiating it from systematic reviews.

Think about the most effective research techniques for your goals. Your technique must be systematic, rigorous, and transparent regardless of whether you opt for a scoping review, a systematic review, or another strategy. By doing this, you add to the body of information that is constantly growing and propels advancement in academia and other fields.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, a scoping review can contain a systematic review. Scoping reviews can be versatile and frequently include many types of literature, such as systematic reviews, to offer a thorough overview.

Scoping reviews have a broader focus, aim to map existing literature, and are exploratory. Systematic reviews are more focused, answer specific questions, and involve strict inclusion criteria and quantitative data synthesis.