There are many ways in which data can be analyzed and presented in scoping reviews. Whilst the next section discusses innovative ways to present the results in scoping reviews, this section discusses analysis of data extracted in scoping reviews.
It is important to point out that scoping reviews do not synthesize the results/outcomes of included sources of evidence as this is more appropriately done within the conduct of a systematic review. In some situations scoping review authors may choose to extract results and descriptively (rather than analytically) map them. For example, a scoping review may extract the results from included sources and map these but not attempt to assess certainty in these results or synthesize these in such a way as we would in systematic reviews.
For many scoping reviews, simple frequency counts of concepts, populations, characteristics or other fields of data will be all that is required. However, other scoping review authors may choose to perform more in-depth analyses, such as descriptive qualitative content analysis, including basic coding of data. This may result in scoping review results providing a summary of data coded to a particular category (i.e. coding and classifying interventions/strategies/behaviors to a behavioral change model or theory). For example, a scoping review on characteristics of indigenous primary health care service models (Harfield et al. 2018) performed content analysis techniques using NVivo as a way to code characteristics into overall categories. Principles of framework synthesis (where you may chart and sort findings/data from papers against an a priori identified framework) may also be useful in some scoping reviews (Davy et al. 2016; Carroll 2013; Glegg et al. 2018). It is important to note that qualitative content analysis in scoping reviews is generally descriptive in nature and reviewers should not undertake thematic analysis/synthesis (i.e. JBI’s meta-aggregative approach or meta-ethnographic approaches) as this would be beyond the scope of a scoping review and would more appropriately fit within the objectives of a systematic review of qualitative evidence/ qualitative evidence synthesis.
In terms of quantitative data, scoping review authors may choose to investigate the occurrence of concepts, characteristics, populations etc with more advanced methods than simple frequency counts. Whilst this in-depth type of analysis is not normally required in scoping reviews, in other scoping reviews (depending on the aim), review authors may consider some form of more advanced analysis depending on the nature and purpose of their review. It is unlikely that a meta-analysis or interpretive qualitative analysis will be required in scoping reviews.
The way data is analysed in scoping reviews is largely dependent on the purpose of the review and the author’s own judgement. The most important consideration regarding analysis is that the authors are transparent and explicit in the approach they have taken, including justifying their approach and clearly reporting any analyses, and as much as possible planned and stipulated a priori.