Question scans

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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, October 2018


See also Evidence-based health care | Expert searching | Grey data ("hard to find" data) | Hand-searching | Scoping reviews | Snowballing | Systematic reviews

What is a question scan?

A question scan is an exploratory research tool used in the educational and educational policy fields to gauge the size of literature and summarize it. As such, the question scan is probably similar to the rapid review although the term question scan is not used in health. The question scanning technique aims to assess whether conducting more comprehensive, systematic reviews is warranted. In conducting the question scan, the goal is to examine the literature and make observations about it but generally the quality of the literature is not usually evaluated. Question scans begin with exploring relevant databases using applicable search terms and finding the grey literature. Several databases and fugitive literature websites must be used to find materials, and abstracts are evaluated to determine the materials' relevance. Broad inclusion and exclusion criteria are used, themes identified and recommendations about the feasibility of further analyses are made. Although question scans are not exhaustive, they are procedurally systematic and transparent. Librarians should maintain a ‘research diary’ documenting each search strategy including search terms, limiters and number of articles identified. Inclusion and exclusion criteria are documented and applied to the captured literature, and exclusion codes are applied to all documents not included for further review.

Summary, themes, documentation

Question scans include summaries that identify the number of articles meeting the inclusion criteria and general themes in the literature. Key studies, reviews and meta-analyses are highlighted for each thematic area. Results advanced by the authors are also summarized; research devoted to Canada is shown when possible. Finally, judgments are made about the value and feasibility of undertaking further systematic reviews. For the purposes of transparency, references are included in the report’s bibliography. For reader convenience, abstracts normally accompany all references when they are available.


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