Skip to Main Content

Systematic and Systematic-like Reviews

What is a Scoping Review?

A scoping review serves the purpose of identifying the existing literature on a specific research question.

  • They can also clarify concepts in the literature and define gaps in knowledge. Unlike systematic reviews, "...scoping reviews do not aim to produce a critically appraised and synthesised result/answer to a particular question, [they] rather aim to provide an overview or map of the evidence" (Munn et al., 2018).
  • Scoping Reviews are nevertheless "systematic-like",  and require a rigorous approach. They often include a protocol; the searching is systematic and fairly exhaustive; and methods are documented thoroughly. They can be the precursor to a full systematic review.

Guidelines and Management

In the health sciences, there are guidelines for Scoping Reviews which could be successfully adapted for other disciplines. See:

You can use the PRISMA flow diagram to keep track of studies you've found, and record how many you have included and excluded (with reasons) during the screening process.

Steps in a Scoping Review

If you're undertaking a Scoping Review in any discipline, the process outlined in this guide (with a few adjustments) should be useful:

1. Identify your answerable research question.

2. Develop your protocol. This step is not always undertaken for a scoping review. The PROSPERO protocol database, for example, does not publish Scoping Reviews. 

3. Conduct systematic searches.

4. Select studies for inclusion (screening). Some guidelines for Scoping Reviews recommend that more than one reviewer goes through the two stages of screening (title/abstract, then full text screening) to reduce the risk of bias. 

5. Critically appraise articles. Munn and his colleagues (2018) state, "Critical appraisal is not mandatory however reviewers may decide to assess and report the risk of bias in scoping reviews".

6. Extract and synthesise the data. As the goal in a scoping review is to determine the range of evidence available on a topic, the data is not synthesised in the same way it is for a systematic review. Instead, charts, tables and other graphics typically map the results. See the Macvean et al (2017) article below as an example.

Further reading

Example of Scoping Review


  • Cacchione, P. Z. (2016). The evolving methodology of scoping reviews. Clinical Nursing Research, 25(2), 115-119.
  • McGowan, J., Straus, S., Moher, D., Langlois, E. V., O'Brien, K. K., Horsley, T., Aldcroft, A., Zarin, W., Garitty, C. M., Hempel, S., Lillie, E., Tunçalp, Ӧ., & Tricco, A. C. (2020). Reporting scoping reviews—PRISMA ScR extension. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 123, 177-179.
  • Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), 143.
  • Peters, M. D., Godfrey, C. M., Khalil, H., McInerney, P., Parker, D., & Soares, C. B. (2015). Guidance for conducting systematic scoping reviews. International Journal of Evidence Based Healthcare, 13(3), 141-146.
  • Peters, M.D., Casey, M., Tricco, A.C., Pollock, D., Munn, Z., Lyndsay, A., McInerney, P., Godfrey, C.M. & Khalil, H. (2020). Updated methodological guidance for the conduct of scoping reviews. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 18(10). 2199-2126.
  • Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O'Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., . . . Weeks, L. (2018). PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): checklist and explanation. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 467-473.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.Acknowledgement of Country

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.