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Reviewing Research: Literature Reviews, Scoping Reviews, Systematic Reviews: Framework, Protocol, and Writing Steps

A guide to literature reviews, scoping reviews, and systematic reviews for the School of Architecture & Planning
Last Updated: May 17, 2024 11:33 AM

Using a framework to structure your question

Frameworks for research question:

  • Setting (where: location)
  • Perspective (users, stakeholders)
  • Interest (action taken: what)
  • Comparison (to what: topic)
  • Evaluation (outcome/results)
  • Sample (group studied)
  • Phenomenon of interest (reason)
  • Design (type of study: survey...)
  • Evaluation (outcome)
  • Research type 


  • Who
  • What
  • How

What was done? (intervention, exposure, policy, phenomenon) How does the what affect the who?


The process for developing a research question with concept map. (Central Michigan University Libraries)

This research guide offers a comprehensive explanation on the different framework models and provides examples. (James Cook University

What is a protocol

The protocol is the plan or methodology of your scoping or systematic review, it describes the rationale, hypothesis, and planned methods of the review. It should be prepared before a review is started and used as a guide to carry out the review.

The protocol should detail the criteria that the reviewers intend on using to include and exclude studies and to identify what data is relevant, and how the data will be extracted and mapped. It can be refined, as needed (report any changes).

Steps in Literature Review Process

Step 1: Define your research topic (define/refine scope)

Step 2: Identify the type of literature you will search (book chapters, articles, gray literature, case studies) criteria: dates, geographic region, methodology

Step 3: Search the literature, keep track of keywords, look at subject headings, track citations (EndNote)

Step 4: Analyze and evaluate the collected literature: major themes, contrary themes, experts in the field, methodologies, popular theories, changes in perception or thoughts over time

Step 5: Categorize your citations: theme, chronological, theoretical, methodological

Step 5: Develop thesis statement or purpose statement

Step 6: Write paper

Step 7: Review your paper

Steps in Scoping Review Process

Step 1: Develop a protocol

Step 2: State your review question/objectives clearly

Step 3: Establish your criteria with rationale

Step 4: Search first database, scan references
             search appropriate databases

Step 5: Search grey literature, if applicable

Step 6: Screen titles and a abstract by at least 2 reviewers

Step 7: Screen full text by at least 2 reviewers

Step 8: Charting form

Step 9: Chart data by at least 2 reviewers

Step 10: Present findings in diagrams or tables


Arksey, & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32. UB Libraries online access
The article distinguishes between different types of scoping studies and indicate where these stand in relation to full systematic reviews. It consider the advantages and limitations of the approach and suggest that a wider debate is called for about the role of the scoping study in relation to other types of literature reviews.

Steps in Systematic Review Process

Step 1: Frame the research question

Step 2: Develop the protocol

Step 3: Engage a librarian to help with a comprehensive search of the literature

Step 4: Assess the retrieved articles by scanning titles and abstracts based on criteria with at least 2 reviewers

Step 5: Assess and evaluate the results with at least 2 reviewers (full text)

Step 6: Manage and report data (PRISMA 2020)

Step 6: Extract data with at least 2 reviewers

Step 7: Analyze results 

Step 8: Interpret results

Khan, K. S., Kunz, R., Kleijnen, J., & Antes, G. (2003). Five steps to conducting a systematic review. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96(3), 118–121.