A scoping review of therapeutic reasoning process research

Quang Hung Duong, To Nhu Pham, Lorenna Reynolds, Yan Yeap, Steven Walker, Kayley Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Therapeutic reasoning is when the purpose, task, or goal for engaging in reasoning is to determine the patient’s management plan. As the field’s understanding of the process of therapeutic reasoning is less well understood, we focused on studies that collected data on the process of therapeutic reasoning. To synthesize previous studies of therapeutic reasoning characteristics, methodological approaches, theoretical underpinnings, and results. We conducted a scoping review with systematic searching for English language articles with no date limits. Databases included MEDLINE, CINAHL Plus, Scopus, Embase, Proquest Dissertations and Theses Global, and ERIC. Search terms captured therapeutic reasoning in health professions education research. Initial search yielded 5450 articles. The title and abstract screening yielded 180 articles. After full-text review, 87 studies were included in this review. Articles were excluded if they were outside health professions education, did not collect data on the process of therapeutic reasoning, were not empirical studies, or not focused on therapeutic reasoning. We analyzed the included articles according to scoping questions using qualitative content analysis. 87 articles dated from 1987 to 2019 were included. Several study designs were employed including think-aloud protocol, interview and written documentation. More than half of the articles analyzed the data using qualitative coding. Authors often utilized several middle-range theories to explain therapeutic reasoning processes. The hypothetico-deductive model was most frequently mentioned. The included articles rarely built off the results from previous studies. Six key result categories were found: identifying themes, characterizing and testing previous local theory, exploring factors, developing new local theory, testing tools, and testing hypothesis. Despite the cast body of therapeutic reasoning research, individual study results remain isolated from previous studies. Our future recommendations include synthesizing pre-existing models, developing novel methodologies, and investigating other aspects of therapeutic reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Decision making processes
  • Learning theories
  • Scoping review
  • Therapeutic decision-making
  • Therapeutic reasoning

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