Introduction Learning in the clinical setting is a major form of learning in undergraduate nursing education. In spite of this, how nursing students learn in clinical practice is still largely unknown. Moreover, there is no conceptual clarity on learning in practice in the current literature. This paper aims to set up a protocol for a scoping review of the literature in order to map different conceptualisations of learning in practice in undergraduate clinical nursing education in the hospital setting. The operationalisations of different concepts will be compared and the findings of the studies will be synthesised. Methods and analysis This scoping review will be guided by the methodological framework proposed by Arksey and O'Malley and refined by Levac et al. and the Joanna Briggs Institute. The search strategy will be developed together with a medical information specialist and the search will be performed in electronic databases (PubMed, EBSCO/ERIC and EBSCO/CINAHL). In a first search, we will identify concepts that are used as an equivalent to learning in practice. Next, we will search for studies operationalising these concepts in undergraduate nursing education. Finally, we will check reference lists for additional publications. Abstracts and full-text studies will independently be screened by two researchers. All studies that have 'learning in undergraduate clinical nursing practice' as their main topic and that include a definition and operationalisation of an equivalent to learning in clinical practice, will be considered for inclusion. We will chart different conceptualisations and their theoretical underpinnings, as well as reported learning opportunities, informal and formal aspects of learning, social aspects of learning and gaps in the literature. Ethics and dissemination This review will help design future studies on learning in clinical nursing practice using well-defined and agreed on terminology. The results will be disseminated through journal publications and conference presentations.