Systematic Reviews and Review Types: What is a Mapping Review?

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Other names for a Mapping Review

Mapping Evidence Review, Mapping Study, Mapping Review, Mapping Exercise, Systematic Map

What is a Mapping Review?

Mapping reviews are focused on a visual synthesis of the data and are question based rather than topic based like the scoping review.

Mapping reviews are best designed for:

  • When there is an abundance and a diversity of research.
  • As a first step to a systematic review.
  • To identify gaps in a topic area.

What is a Mapping Review? Outline of Stages

Timeframe: 12+ months, (same amount of time as a systematic review or longer)   *Varies beyond the type of review. Depends on many factors such as but not limited to: resources available, the quantity and quality of the literature, and the expertise or experience of reviewers” (Grant et al. 2009)

Question: Questions are of a wider scope than a systematic review. A priori review protocol is recommended.

Sources and searches: Rapid/as time allows searching aimed to give a broad overview, still aims to be thorough and repeatable.  In some cases a mapping review may be limited to a certain type of article–may be limited to just review articles, just peer reviewed journals or just grey literature/research in progress.  Must include a PRISMA flow diagram.

Selection: Based on inclusion/exclusion criteria.  May require more time spent screening articles due to the larger volume of studies from covering a wider scope.  Also necessary to group studies for the mapping of included studies.

Appraisal: None, only if appropriate, includes a quality assessment of study bias/validity.

Synthesis: (Graphical or Tabular, less narrative) Visual synthesis and classification of the available studies. A high level map visualizing the status of the field related to the research question.

(Sources: Petticrew and Roberts (2006), Peterson et al. (2008), Booth et al. (2016).

Limitations of a Mapping Review

  • The broad nature and rapid search may mean that some articles will be missed.
  • May take time and require additional expertise or training for creating the visual output.
  • Inconsistency in the conduct of mapping reviews.

Examples of a Mapping Review

  • Lorenc, et al. Crime, fear of crime, environment, and mental health and wellbeing: Mapping review of theories and causal pathways (2012).

This is an example of a mapping review of complex interventions.

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