A for Assessment of Scope

Assess Your Topic, Scope, and Goals

Assess your topic, scope, goals, and which resources you want to search. If your goal is a literature review, understand the type of literature review and the methodology involved. This step is a good time to do some preliminary background searching to get an idea of what’s already been done. Hint: look for a question development framework that will help you frame your topic.

In which databases would you expect to find relevant literature? This is the perfect time to ask a librarian or an information professional for guidance. Your project cannot be adequately supported with Google or Wikipedia. See your institution’s site for database suggestions and a connection to the library.

Formulating Your Research Topic

  • Gather background information on your topic. Do a quick search to see what’s been written about the topic so far.
  • Consider your audience. Who will be interested in this issue?
  • Identify a question framework to use to acheive clarity in the research question.
  • Solicit input from collaborators, peers, and mentors.
  • If you can, consult with a librarian or information professional to assist you with a thorough search.

Tools for Question Development

In addition to connecting with a librarian for recommendations of the best available resources, you might find that Google and Wikipedia are helpful. Perform some searches to identify recommended databases for your topic. Your librarian will be able to determine access for these resources.

Types of Expert Reviews

These three articles outline different approaches to typology and methodology for answering different types of clinical and non-clinical questions.

  • Akl, E.A., Haddaway, N., Rada, G., & Lotfi, T. (2020). Evidence synthesis 2.0: when systematic, scoping, rapid, living, and overviews of reviews come together? Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, online. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2020.01.025
  • Munn, Z., Stern, C., Aromataris, E., Lockwood, C., & Jordan, Z. (2018). What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed typology and guidance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences. BMC medical research methodology, 18(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-017-0468-4
  • Grant, M. J., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x

Integrative Review

An integrative review critiques and synthesizes the literature on a topic in an integrated way to generate new frameworks or perspectives on the topic. It allows for the inclusion of several study designs (e.g. experimental/nonexperimental, theoretical studies/empirical literature). It is also known as a “comprehensive review” or a “critical overview.”

Scoping Review

A scoping review maps the body of literature on a topic (often a broad topic) and identifies key concepts and research gaps. It may include data from any type of evidence and research methodology. It can be used as a standalone project or as a preliminary step to a systematic review.

  • Tricco, A.C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K.K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., Moher, D., Peters, M.D.J., Horsley, T., Weeks, L., Hempel, S., Akl, E.A., Chang, C., McGowan, J., Stewart, L., Hartling, L., Aldcroft, A., Wilson, M.G., Garritty, C., Lewin, S., Godfrey, C.M., Macdonald, M.T., Langlois, E.V., Soares-Weiser, K., Moriarty, J., Clifford, T., Tunçalp Ö., Straus, S.E. (2018). PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): checklist and explanation. Annals of internal medicine, 169(7), 467-473. Link in Annals of Internal Medicine, Link in Equator
  • Munn, Z., Peters, M., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC medical research methodology, 18(1), 143. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x
  • Pham, M. T., Rajić, A., Greig, J. D., Sargeant, J. M., Papadopoulos, A., & McEwen, S. A. (2014). A scoping review of scoping reviews: advancing the approach and enhancing the consistency. Research Synthesis Methods, 5(4), 371–385. http://doi.org/10.1002/jrsm.1123
  • Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32. http://doi.org/10.1080/1364557032000119616

Systematic Review

A systematic review uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research and to collect and analyze data from included studies. It traditionally brings together evidence from the quantitative literature to answer questions on the effectiveness of a specific intervention for a particular condition.

  • Higgins, J. P. T., Green, S. (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from http://handbook.cochrane.org.

Rapid Review

A rapid review provides a rapid synthesis of knowledge about a policy or clinical practice issue and attempts to inform an evidence-based decision as soon as possible. It follows all of the stages of a systematic knowledge synthesis but may modify a stage to shorten the timescale.

  • Khangura, S., Konnyu, K., Cushman, R., Grimshaw, J., & Moher, D. (2012). Evidence summaries: the evolution of a rapid review approach. Systematic Reviews, 1, 10. http://doi.org/10.1186/2046-4053-1-10

Realist Review

A realist review looks to identify and explain social interventions or programs and the interactions between context, mechanisms, and outcomes for policy makers. It seeks to answer the question, “What works, for whom, in what circumstances?” It embraces multiple methods (both qualitative and quantitative).

  • Pawson, R., Greenhalgh, T., Harvey, G., & Walshe, K. (2005). Realist review—a new method of systematic review designed for complex policy interventions. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 10 Suppl1, 21–34. http://doi.org/10.1258/1355819054308530

Umbrella Review

An overview of reviews, or umbrella review, summarizes the evidence from multiple research syntheses into one accessible and usable document. It is based on high-quality, reliable systematic reviews on a specific health problem or topic, and it explores the consistency of findings across reviews

  • Aromataris, E., et al. (2015). Summarizing systematic reviews: methodological development, conduct and reporting of an umbrella review approach. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 13(3), 132–140. http://doi.org/10.1097/XEB.0000000000000055