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Scoping Reviews

Types of Research Questions for Scoping Reviews

Scoping Reviews are broad by nature. As the name suggests, their purpose is to identify the scope of the literature on a topic. Therefore, the research questions that a Scoping Review can answer are also broad. Questions appropriate for Scoping Review methodology include:

  • What has been done in a particular field?
  • Where are the gaps in the literature?
  • What populations have been included?
  • What progress has been made in the research?
  • How has a policy changed over time?
  • What are the key concepts/vocabulary in a particular field?
  • How is research conducted in a particular field?
  • Does enough literature exist to conduct a systematic review?


What is known from the literature about the use of animal-assisted therapies in people with mood disorders?

Types of Questions by Types of Review

What you want to know can help you determine which review methodology is best for you to conduct. Different types of questions are more appropriate for different types of reviews. If you want to ask the types of questions below, you may want to consider switching from Scoping Review methodology to Systematic or Umbrella Review methodology.

Systematic Review  Umbrella Review
Is a specific intervention effective? Is there sufficient quality of evidence related to a broad condition, problem, or intervention?
How do two interventions compare to one another? What is known about a broad condition, problem, or intervention?
What experience do patients undergo with an intervention?  
What is the prevalence of a specific condition?  
How accurate is a test or measure?  
What is the association between a specific risk factor and a specific outcome?  
What is the prognosis of a specific condition?  
Is a specific research method effective?  

Varying Research Questions by Review Types

Here is an example of how you might think differently about your research question based on the type of review you want to conduct.

Systematic Review Scoping Review Umbrella Review
Are animal-assisted therapies as effective as traditional cognitive behavioral therapies in treating people with depressive disorders? What is known from the literature about the use of animal-assisted therapies in people with mood disorders? Have the methodologies in studies related to therapies for people with mood disorders been sound enough to validate their effectiveness?


Using Frameworks to Develop your Research Question

Formulating a research question (RQ) may require some initial searching on your topic, especially if it is one you haven't already researched. There are three primary elements of a Scoping Review RQ. However, not all RQs need to include all 3:

  1. Population
  2. Intervention
  3. Outcome

As you develop your research question, it is helpful to define your key concepts. This will help with the development of your inclusion criteria as well as your search strategy.

For example, what do you mean by adolescent? What age range are you including?

If you would like further help formulating your RQ, there are frameworks that can help as well as provide the foundational elements for your search strategy. Most of these frameworks were developed for the more specific RQs involved in Systematic Reviews, but they can also be helpful in thinking through your Scoping Review RQ.

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