Scoping reviews provide an avenue for the exploration, description, and dissemination of a body of evidence before a more systematic review is undertaken. As such, they can help clarify how research on a certain has been defined and conducted, in addition to identifying common issues and knowledge gaps - all of which can go on to inform a more effective approach to systematically reviewing the literature.
The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) has provided guidance on the conduct of scoping reviews since 2013. While developing the latest version published in 2020, the group identified the most common challenges and posed some solutions for those looking to develop a scoping review.
Key challenges included:
- a lack of people trained in methodology unique to scoping reviews (helpful resources can be found on the JBI Global page and elsewhere).
- how to decide when a scoping review is appropriate (hint: they should never be done in lieu of a systematic review if the intention is to provide recommendations)
- deciding which type of review is most appropriate (this online tool can help)
- knowing how much and what type of data to extract - for instance, making determinations between "mapping" of concepts around particular areas, populations, or methodologies and conducting a qualitative thematic analysis
- reporting results effectively, such as with an evidence gap map
- resisting the urge to overstate conclusions and provide recommendations for practice
- a lack of editors and peer reviewers adequately trained to critically revise scoping reviews (the PRISMA extension for scoping reviews - PRISMA ScR - provides a checklist for proper conduct and reporting).