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Scoping reviews: a valuable first step in knowledge synthesis

Date and Location




Monday 23 September 2013 - 10:30 - 12:00


Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author

Lisa Hartling

Contact person

Lisa Hartling
Abstract text
Background: Scoping reviews identify, collect and summarize knowledge in broad topics. We conducted a scoping review on the use of social media in healthcare to identify the extent and nature of available evidence. Objectives: To present the information we gained from the review and discuss its value in delineating the focus and methods for more in-depth systematic reviews (SRs). Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search and identified 371 studies. We mapped these according to user groups, types of evidence, clinical areas, purpose of social media, and outcomes examined. Results: This process was valuable for: 1) defining the search strategy; 2) defining the intervention and its scope; 3) identifying areas where in-depth synthesis is appropriate; and 4) providing a foundation to specify the focus and methods of subsequent SRs. Given the newness of this area, MeSH headings for searching were limited. We iteratively identified studies and examined their indexing to build a list of key words. We identified sources of grey literature and specific journals to hand-search. We found that research in this area is emerging at a rapid pace; therefore, timing of the search and updates is critical. Social media encompasses a number of different online applications, is not consistently defined, and is constantly evolving. This work allowed us to more clearly define terms and identify challenges that may be encountered in conducting a SR. Mapping identified the types of evidence available and areas where there is sufficient evidence to warrant further in-depth SRs. The scoping work provided a solid basis for successful grant applications to conduct SRs in specific clinical areas. Conclusions: A scoping review allowed us to map the evidence for a broad topic. This exercise was valuable in terms of delineating the search, defining terms, and identifying topic areas where further SRs are appropriate and worthwhile.