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      A scoping review on the conduct and reporting of scoping reviews

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          Scoping reviews are used to identify knowledge gaps, set research agendas, and identify implications for decision-making. The conduct and reporting of scoping reviews is inconsistent in the literature. We conducted a scoping review to identify: papers that utilized and/or described scoping review methods; guidelines for reporting scoping reviews; and studies that assessed the quality of reporting of scoping reviews.


          We searched nine electronic databases for published and unpublished literature scoping review papers, scoping review methodology, and reporting guidance for scoping reviews. Two independent reviewers screened citations for inclusion. Data abstraction was performed by one reviewer and verified by a second reviewer. Quantitative (e.g. frequencies of methods) and qualitative (i.e. content analysis of the methods) syntheses were conducted.


          After searching 1525 citations and 874 full-text papers, 516 articles were included, of which 494 were scoping reviews. The 494 scoping reviews were disseminated between 1999 and 2014, with 45 % published after 2012. Most of the scoping reviews were conducted in North America (53 %) or Europe (38 %), and reported a public source of funding (64 %). The number of studies included in the scoping reviews ranged from 1 to 2600 (mean of 118). Using the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology guidance for scoping reviews, only 13 % of the scoping reviews reported the use of a protocol, 36 % used two reviewers for selecting citations for inclusion, 29 % used two reviewers for full-text screening, 30 % used two reviewers for data charting, and 43 % used a pre-defined charting form. In most cases, the results of the scoping review were used to identify evidence gaps (85 %), provide recommendations for future research (84 %), or identify strengths and limitations (69 %). We did not identify any guidelines for reporting scoping reviews or studies that assessed the quality of scoping review reporting.


          The number of scoping reviews conducted per year has steadily increased since 2012. Scoping reviews are used to inform research agendas and identify implications for policy or practice. As such, improvements in reporting and conduct are imperative. Further research on scoping review methodology is warranted, and in particular, there is need for a guideline to standardize reporting.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12874-016-0116-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement

          David Moher and colleagues introduce PRISMA, an update of the QUOROM guidelines for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses
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            Scoping studies: advancing the methodology

            Background 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. Discussion 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. Summary 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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              Empirical evidence of bias. Dimensions of methodological quality associated with estimates of treatment effects in controlled trials.

              To determine if inadequate approaches to randomized controlled trial design and execution are associated with evidence of bias in estimating treatment effects. An observational study in which we assessed the methodological quality of 250 controlled trials from 33 meta-analyses and then analyzed, using multiple logistic regression models, the associations between those assessments and estimated treatment effects. Meta-analyses from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Database. The associations between estimates of treatment effects and inadequate allocation concealment, exclusions after randomization, and lack of double-blinding. Compared with trials in which authors reported adequately concealed treatment allocation, trials in which concealment was either inadequate or unclear (did not report or incompletely reported a concealment approach) yielded larger estimates of treatment effects (P < .001). Odds ratios were exaggerated by 41% for inadequately concealed trials and by 30% for unclearly concealed trials (adjusted for other aspects of quality). Trials in which participants had been excluded after randomization did not yield larger estimates of effects, but that lack of association may be due to incomplete reporting. Trials that were not double-blind also yielded larger estimates of effects (P = .01), with odds ratios being exaggerated by 17%. This study provides empirical evidence that inadequate methodological approaches in controlled trials, particularly those representing poor allocation concealment, are associated with bias. Readers of trial reports should be wary of these pitfalls, and investigators must improve their design, execution, and reporting of trials.

                Author and article information

                BMC Med Res Methodol
                BMC Med Res Methodol
                BMC Medical Research Methodology
                BioMed Central (London )
                9 February 2016
                9 February 2016
                : 16
                [ ]Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, 209 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON M5B 1 W8 Canada
                [ ]Epidemiology Division, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 6th floor, 155 College St, Toronto, ON M5T 3 M7 Canada
                [ ]Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, 500 University Avenue, Room 160, Toronto, ON M5G 1 V7 Canada
                [ ]Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, 4th Floor, 155 College St, Toronto, ON M5T 3 M6 Canada
                [ ]Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, 160-500 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G 1 V7 Canada
                [ ]School of Rehabilitation Science, University of Ottawa, 200 Lees Avenue, Room A120, Ottawa, ON K1N 6 N5 Canada
                [ ]Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Calgary, 3280 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 2 T9 Canada
                [ ]Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 27 Kings College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 1A1 Canada
                © Tricco et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, Canadian Institutes of Health Research;
                Award ID: KRS-138219
                Funded by: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2016


                scoping reviews, reporting, knowledge synthesis, systematic review, methods


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