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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Knowledge syntheses: Systematic & Scoping Reviews, and other review types


Dr. Andrea Tricco et al. (2015) provide the following definition for rapid reviews: "a form of knowledge synthesis in which components of the systematic review process are simplified or omitted to produce information in a timely manner" (p.1). Rapid reviews are especially popular among decision-makers in health care settings. Rapid reviews can be distinguished by their ability to be conducted within a limited timeframe.

When is a Rapid Review methodology appropriate?

When to Use It: Based off Grant & Booth (2009) and Dr. Andrea Tricco et al. (2015), a rapid review might be right for you if you are interested in:

  • Expediting finding an answer that will affect policy decisions or other pressing matters

  • Acquiring quality information that is normally produced in a systematic review but have neither the time or budget to complete a full systematic review

Elements of a Rapid Review

The following characteristics, strengths, and challenges of conducting rapid reviews are derived from Booth (2016), Grant & Booth (2009) and Dr. Andrea Tricco et al. (2015)

  • Rapid reviews often include "shortcuts" that streamline and shorten the review process. These include:
    • having a very focused, narrow question
    • searching less comprehensively in databases & grey literature
    • reviewing other reviews on the same topic
    • limiting key variables and conducting a basic quality appraisal
  • A key component to the rapid review process is transparent reporting of the stages of the review process which were restricted

  • Note that the timeline of a rapid review is not it's defining feature, it is rather how the review was tailored to the needs of the individual or organization that requests the review.

  • Provides decision-makers with an evidence-based answer in a shorter amount of time than conducting a systematic review, which may be necessary for time-sensitive situations, particularly for health decision-makers

  • Making amends to shorten the process of conducting the review may introduce bias
  • Making amends can have other consequences including:
    • Lack of rigorous quality appraisal can lead to a poor evidence base
    • Expediting the synthesis process can lead to inconsistencies
  • Poor reporting of methods utilized has been found

Methods and Guidance

The following resources provide an overview and guidance on conducting and reporting rapid reviews.


A thorough guide on conducting rapid reviews from 2017, presented by Maureen Dobins.

This guide provides a variety of methods that can be used when conducting rapid reviews. Authors: World Health Organization, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research


The guideline is currently under development.


Check out the supplementary resources page for additional information, including articles, on rapid reviews.