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Systematic and Scoping Reviews Search Methodology

Defining the Question

Before embarking on your systematic search, you'll want to define your research topic in an easily searchable way. This involves separating out the key concepts of your research question. There are various tools to help you do this. One of the most commonly used in systematic reviews is PICO; for scoping reviews, PCC:

  • Population/Problem
  • Intervention or Issue
  • Comparison (if any)
  • Outcomes


  • Population/Problem
  • Concept
  • Context

These worksheets can help you formulate a searchable question.

Developing Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

  • Chapter 5 of the Cochrane Handbook discusses inclusion and exclusion criteria for systematic reviews.
  • The PRISMA Statment notes that you should document the total number of studies you reviewed, including those you excluded from your systematic review.

Registering a Protocol

Some journals publish systematic or scoping review protocols. You may also register your protocol in PROSPERO or Open Science Framework.