How methodological frameworks are being developed: evidence from a scoping review.BMC Med Res Methodol. 2020 Jun 30; 20(1):173.BM
Although the benefits of using methodological frameworks are increasingly recognised, to date, there is no formal definition of what constitutes a 'methodological framework', nor is there any published guidance on how to develop one. For the purposes of this study we have defined a methodological framework as a structured guide to completing a process or procedure. This study's aims are to: (a) map the existing landscape on the use of methodological frameworks; (b) identify approaches used for the development of methodological frameworks and terminology used; and (c) provide suggestions for developing future methodological frameworks. We took a broad view and did not limit our study to methodological frameworks in research and academia.
A scoping review was conducted, drawing on Arksey and O'Malley's methods and more recent guidance. We systematically searched two major electronic databases (MEDLINE and Web of Science), as well as grey literature sources and the reference lists and citations of all relevant papers. Study characteristics and approaches used for development of methodological frameworks were extracted from included studies. Descriptive analysis was conducted.
We included a total of 30 studies, representing a wide range of subject areas. The most commonly reported approach for developing a methodological framework was 'Based on existing methods and guidelines' (66.7%), followed by 'Refined and validated' (33.3%), 'Experience and expertise' (30.0%), 'Literature review' (26.7%), 'Data synthesis and amalgamation' (23.3%), 'Data extraction' (10.0%), 'Iteratively developed' (6.7%) and 'Lab work results' (3.3%). There was no consistent use of terminology; diverse terms for methodological framework were used across and, interchangeably, within studies.
Although no formal guidance exists on how to develop a methodological framework, this scoping review found an overall consensus in approaches used, which can be broadly divided into three phases: (a) identifying data to inform the methodological framework; (b) developing the methodological framework; and (c) validating, testing and refining the methodological framework. Based on these phases, we provide suggestions to facilitate the development of future methodological frameworks.