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Gerstein Science Information Centre

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

Definition

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 systematic reviews are derived from Booth (2016), Grant & Booth (2009) and Dr. Andrea Tricco et al. (2015)

Characteristics:

  • 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.

Strengths:

  • 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

Challenges:

  • 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.

METHODS & GUIDANCE

​​REPORTING GUIDELINE

PRISMA-RR: an extension to PRISMA for rapid reviews. The guideline is currently under development, but you can read the protocol here.

SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES

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