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      Scoping studies: advancing the methodology

      1 , , 1 , 1 , 2
      Implementation Science : IS
      BioMed Central

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          Scoping studies are an increasingly popular approach to reviewing health research evidence. In 2005, Arksey and O'Malley published the first methodological framework for conducting scoping studies. While this framework provides an excellent foundation for scoping study methodology, further clarifying and enhancing this framework will help support the consistency with which authors undertake and report scoping studies and may encourage researchers and clinicians to engage in this process.


          We build upon our experiences conducting three scoping studies using the Arksey and O'Malley methodology to propose recommendations that clarify and enhance each stage of the framework. Recommendations include: clarifying and linking the purpose and research question (stage one); balancing feasibility with breadth and comprehensiveness of the scoping process (stage two); using an iterative team approach to selecting studies (stage three) and extracting data (stage four); incorporating a numerical summary and qualitative thematic analysis, reporting results, and considering the implications of study findings to policy, practice, or research (stage five); and incorporating consultation with stakeholders as a required knowledge translation component of scoping study methodology (stage six). Lastly, we propose additional considerations for scoping study methodology in order to support the advancement, application and relevance of scoping studies in health research.


          Specific recommendations to clarify and enhance this methodology are outlined for each stage of the Arksey and O'Malley framework. Continued debate and development about scoping study methodology will help to maximize the usefulness and rigor of scoping study findings within healthcare research and practice.

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          What are scoping studies? A review of the nursing literature.

          Scoping studies are increasingly undertaken as distinct activities. The interpretation, methodology and expectations of scoping are highly variable. This suggests that conceptually, scoping is a poorly defined ambiguous term. The distinction between scoping as an integral preliminary process in the development of a research proposal or a formative, methodologically rigorous activity in its own right has not been extensively examined. The aim of this review is to explore the nature and status of scoping studies within the nursing literature and develop a working definition to ensure consistency in the future use of scoping as a research related activity. This paper follows an interpretative scoping review methodology. An explicit systematic search strategy included literary and web-based key word searches and advice from key researchers. Electronic sources included bibliographic and national research register databases and a general browser. The scoping studies varied widely in terms of intent, procedural and methodological rigor. An atheoretical stance was common although explicit conceptual clarification and development of a topic was limited. Four different levels of inquiry ranging from preliminary descriptive surveys to more substantive conceptual approaches were conceptualised. These levels reflected differing dimensional distinctions in which some activities constitute research whereas in others the scoping activities appear to fall outside the remit of research. Reconnaissance emerges as a common synthesising construct to explain the purpose of scoping. Scoping studies in relation to nursing are embryonic and continue to evolve. Its main strengths lie in its ability to extract the essence of a diverse body of evidence giving it meaning and significance that is both developmental and intellectually creative. As with other approaches to research and evidence synthesis a more standardized approach is required.
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            Using scoping literature reviews as a means of understanding and interpreting existing literature.

            This article compares and contrasts scoping literature reviews with other established methods for understanding and interpreting extant research literature. Descriptions of the key principles and applications of scoping reviews are illustrated with examples from contemporary publications. Scoping reviews are presented as an efficient way of identifying themes and trends in high-volume areas of scientific inquiry.
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              How good is the quality of health care in the United States? 1998.


                Author and article information

                Implement Sci
                Implementation Science : IS
                BioMed Central
                20 September 2010
                : 5
                : 69
                [1 ]School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, 1400 Main Street West, Room 403, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
                [2 ]Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, 160-500 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
                Copyright ©2010 Levac et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 11 June 2010
                : 20 September 2010



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