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Table 1 Definitions and purposes of scoping studies

From: Scoping studies: advancing the methodology

Authors Definition Purpose(s)
Ehrich et al. (2002) None provided. 'The purpose of a scoping exercise is both to map a wide range of literature, and to envisage where gaps and innovative approaches may lie"' [[11] p. 28].
Arksey and O'Malley (2005) 'Aim to map rapidly the key concepts underpinning a research area and the main sources and types of evidence available' [[14] p. 194], as cited in [6] 1. To examine the extent, range, and nature of research activity.
2. To determine the value for undertaking a full systematic review.
3. To summarize and disseminate research findings.
4. To identify research gaps in the existing literature. [[6] p. 21]
Anderson et al. (2008) 'Scoping studies are concerned with contextualizing knowledge in terms of identifying the current state of understanding; identifying the sorts of things we know and do not know; and then setting this within policy and practice contexts' [2] 1. Literature mapping: 'is a map of the relevant literature. These vary in scope from general accounts of the literature to studies that are just short of systematic reviews. Literature scoping studies often also involve the syntheses of findings from different types of study.'
2. Conceptual mapping: 'a scoping study designed to establish how a particular term is used in what literature, by whom and for what purpose.'
3. Policy mapping: 'a scoping study designed to identify the main documents and statements from government agencies and professional bodies that have a bearing on the nature of practice in that area.''
4. Stakeholder consultation: 'Do[es] not constitute scoping studies in their own right, but they do have an important part to play in scoping studies concerned with the identification of research priorities, in helping to target research questions, and in validating the outcomes of scoping studies through peer-review' [2].
Grant et al. (2009) 'Preliminary assessment of potential size and scope of research literature.' [[4] p.95] 'Aims to identify the nature and extent of research evidence (usually including ongoing research' [[4] p.95].
Davis et al. (2009) 'Scoping involves the synthesis and analysis of a wide range of research and non-research material to provide greater conceptual clarity about a specific topic or field of evidence' [[1] p.1386]. 'We propose that a common synthesising construct emerges to explain the purpose of scoping, namely that of 'reconnaissance'. It is generally synonymous with a preliminarily investigation in which information is systematically gathered and examined in order to establish strengths and weakness and guide in which ever context, future decision-making' [[1] p. 1396].
National Institute for
Health Research (NIHR) Service Delivery and Organisation
Research and Development Programme (SDO)
None provided. 1.'Clarification of working definitions and conceptual boundaries of a topic area, developed in the form of systematic overview (narrative review) of the literature but specifically excluding a systematic review, to determine a frame of reference;
2. Outline what is already known and identify gaps in existing research, and;
4. Conceptual analysis may include the 'mapping' of existing empirical evidence to describe and interpret issues that will inform further research and development opportunities.' [[1] p. 1387]
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
'Scoping reviews are exploratory projects that systematically map the literature available on a topic, identifying the key concepts, theories, sources of evidence, and gaps in the research. They are often preliminary to full syntheses, undertaken when feasibility is a concern -- either because the potentially relevant literature is thought to be especially vast and diverse (varying by method, theoretical orientation or discipline) or there is suspicion that not enough literature exists. These entail the systematic selection, collection and summarization of existing knowledge in a broad thematic area for the purpose of identifying where there is sufficient evidence to conduct a full synthesis or where insufficient evidence exists and further primary research is necessary.' [15] None provided.