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Systematic Reviews & Other Review Types

This guide will help you get started with your next systematic review, scoping review, or other review types.

Other names for a Rapid Review

Rapid Evidence Review, Rapid Evidence Assessment, Rapid Systematic Review, Expedited Review, Rapid Evidence Summary

What is a Rapid Review?

"Rapid reviews are a form of evidence synthesis that may provide more timely information for decision making compared with standard systematic reviews." (AHRQ)  The methods of conducting rapid reviews varies widely, and are typically done in less than 5 weeks.  Often policy makers require a short deadline and a systematic review for synthesizing the evidence is not practical.  A rapid review speeds up the systematic review process by omitting stages of the systematic review making it less rigorous.  

Rapid Reviews are best designed for:

New or emerging research topics, updates of previous reviews, critical topics, to assess what is already known about a policy or practice using some systematic review methods.

What is a Rapid Review? Outline of Stages

Timeframe: ≤ 5 weeks (varies)   *Varies beyond the type of review. Depends on many factors such as but not limited to: resources available, the quantity and quality of the literature, and the expertise or experience of reviewers" (Grant et al. 2009)

Question: Narrow question, may use PICO 

Is your review question a complex intervention? Learn more about Reviews of Complex Interventions

Sources and searches: Sources are limited due to time constraints of searching, however still uses transparent and reproducible search methods.

See our Systematic Review Search Service for help conducting the search!

Selection: Based on inclusion/exclusion criteria

Appraisal: Critical and rigorous but time limited

Synthesis: Descriptive summary or categorization of data, may still be quantitative

(Source: Khangura S. et al. (2012) Evidence summaries: the evolution of a rapid review approach)


Rapid Reviews to Strengthen Health Policy and Systems: a Practical Guide (World Health Organization-WHO 2017)

Advances in Rapid Reviews series (Systematic Reviews BMC)

Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group

Rapid Review Guidebook-(from the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools) This link will open a PDF document.


STARR Decision Tool: SelecTing Approaches for Rapid Reviews (STARR) Decision Tool

Ganann R, Ciliska D and Helen T.  Expediting systematic reviews: methods and implications of rapid reviews. Implementation Science. 2010; 5:56. 

Grant MJ, Booth A.  A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies.  Health Information and Libraries Journal.  2009; 26(2):91-108.

Hartling L, et al. A taxonomy of rapid reviews links report types and methods to specific decision-making contexts. J Clin Epidemiol. 2015; 68(12).  

Tricco AC, Antony J, Zarin W, et al. A scoping review of rapid review methods.  BMC Medicine. 2015;13:224.

Limitations of a Rapid Review

  • Search is not as comprehensive
  • In come cases, there may only be one reviewer.
  • Possible non-blinded appraisal and selection
  • Limited/cautious interpretation of the findings
  • No universally accepted definition of a "rapid review"
  • Be mindful of limitations and potential biases when cutting corners.
  • Can impact policy and practice but systematic reviews are still needed
  • You still need a content expert and those experienced with systematic reviews

(Source: Cochrane: Rapid Reviews-An Introduction (2014))