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Developing a Protocol for Systematic and Scoping Reviews

A guide to writing and registering a protocol for two common scholarly literature reviews.


Developing a Protocol for Systematic and Scoping Reviews

What is a protocol?

What is a Protocol?

In the evidence synthesis process, the first step is determining a research question (Uman, 2011). The next step is deciding which type of review to conduct based on your research question. Before conducting the actual literature review and research, the team must develop a protocol.

The protocol of an evidence synthesis outlines the rationale, hypothesis, and methods researchers are planning to use in conducting their review (Page et. al, 2021). Protocols must be completed before the actual review is conducted, and is then used as a guide for the research team. Outlining the team's steps in the research process is not only essential for collaboration, but in establishing authorship and credibility. In order for your review to be legitimate, you must outline and justify the measures taken to search and review the relevant literature.

Once a protocol is developed, it is uploaded and shared for other researchers to review. This is done to allow for potential replication in research measures.

Definition of Literature Reviews

What is a Systematic Review?

A systematic review is a form of evidence synthesis where a comprehensive literature review relating to one specific research question is conducted (Newman & Gough, 2020). Literature reviewed includes studies, papers, essays, research, and unpublished studies. The goal is to be as comprehensive as possible and to prevent bias in literature selected. Once all of the literature is reviewed, poorly done studies are filtered and the researcher is able to make recommendations regarding future directions of research applying to the area of focus.

For more information on conducting a systematic review at Duquesne, see our Systematic Review library guide.


What is a Scoping Review?

A scoping review is a form of evidence synthesis where the author's goal is determining the scope of literature surrounding a particular area of interest (Munn et. al, 2018). This is contrary to a systematic review, which aims to gather all of the literature relating to a focused research question (Pham et. al, 2014). Also referred to as mapping, the scoping review's purpose is to amass literature in one area - what is consistent/inconsistent in the literature? What are trends in research being done in this area? What are the gaps? This is useful information to have as it informs future research.

For more information on conducting a scoping review at Duquesne, see our Scoping Review library guide.