Scoping and question refinement for systematic reviews commissioned by policy customers

Date & Time
Wednesday, September 6, 2023, 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Location Name
Session Type
Engaging stakeholders and building partnerships
Briscoe S1, Shaw L1, Nunns M1, Lawal H1, Orr N1, Melendez-Torres G1, Garside R1, Thompson Coon J1
1University of Exeter Medical School, UK

Background: Policymakers commission research teams to carry out systematic reviews to support evidence-based decision-making. When presented with a topic brief from a policy customer, the research team must establish whether there is a suitable evidence-base to address the topic and the most appropriate type of systematic review. Often the research team is also involved in refining the research question to make this manageable for producing a review.
Objectives: To describe the process used to carry out scoping and question refinement for policy customers and how this informs whether or not to proceed with a review and what type of review is most appropriate.
Methods: We will draw on case studies of scoping for policy customers undertaken by the Exeter PRP Evidence Review Facility. This will include analysis of refining the question and inclusion criteria, selecting appropriate sources to search, and presenting the findings in a useful format. We will also discuss how patient and public involvement (PPI) can inform scoping, such as the selection of search terms and relevant sources.
Results: The case studies show that topic briefs can be both wide ranging and narrow, requiring a collaborative effort between customer and researchers to refine the question appropriately. The selection of appropriate sources to search depends on the topic, with typical sources including MEDLINE and Google Scholar, extending to specialist sources for some topics, including solicitation of sources and key studies from topic experts and PPI. Meetings with policy customers can help to ensure that our scoping is suitably focused on their research needs.
Conclusions: Scoping and question refinement is an important step ahead of the development of a review for a policy customer. Close working between the policy customer and review team, with input from topic experts and members of the public with relevant experience, can help to ensure that the resulting review is best suited to their needs. Patient and public involvement: Scoping and question refinement can use PPI to inform the development of the question and the scope of a review and also more specific technical tasks, such as the development of the search strategy.