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Scoping studies: advancing the methodology

Danielle Levac1*, Heather Colquhoun1 and Kelly K O'Brien12

Author Affiliations

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

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Implementation Science 2010, 5:69  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-5-69

Published: 20 September 2010

Abstract

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.