Scoping reviews: their development and application in environmental and sustainable education research

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Recent decades have seen a marked growth in the quantity and range of literature reviews published on various aspects of environmental and sustainability education (ESE). However, critical assessment of these reviews suggests common challenges for authors and readers, the core of which concern distinct but related aspects of naming, assessing, and applying literature review methods. In some cases, these concerns can be traced back to matters of ‘category mistake’. Such mistakes may arise through a failure to recognise or demonstrate sufficient understanding of the differences between and suitability of literature review options, such as systematic vs. scoping reviews. In response, we contrast some of the key considerations for designing and conducting both review methods. We also draw on various protocols, checklists, and examples of reviews from the field to help readers and authors combat the likelihood of repeating a category mistake. In sum, we suggest such considerations are particularly helpful for checking when research objectives and methodological frameworks are not correctly aligned with their elected literature synthesis approach, while they may also help enhance the transparency and rigour of literature reviews and help further establish their suitability and/or usability in the field of ESE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-673
Number of pages29
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Environmental and sustainability education (ESE)
  • literature review
  • research methods
  • Scoping review
  • systematic review

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