Conducting Comprehensive Environmental Scans in Health Research: A Process for Assessing the Subject Matter Landscape

The Basics of Environmental Scan

  • Maaz Shahid University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
  • Tanvir C Turin University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Keywords: Environmental scan, health service research, knowledge synthesis, and stakeholder


Environmental scans provide researchers with an assessment of the landscape around an issue of interest. In this process relevant information is systematically amassed to identify current status, scopes or opportunities, and risks. This paper aims to serve as a basic and surface level guide to understanding and planning for conducting an environmental scan. The intended audience includes students and researchers new to the use of environmental scans. Before discussion of all the steps, some examples of the use of environmental scans in health research is provided. The process of conducting an environmental scan is outlined in five steps that revolve around purpose, people, questions, information gathering and presenting. The paper concludes with a discussion on advantages and challenges of conducting environmental scans.