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Systematic Reviews: Rapid Reviews

Resources to Support Work in Systematic Reviews

What are they?

“There was a wide diversity of methodology, with some reviews utilising well-established systematic review methods, but many others diversifying in one or more areas, that is searching, inclusion screening, quality assessment, data extraction, synthesis methods, report structure and number of reviewers. … there is no agreed and tested methodology and it is unclear how rapid reviews differ from systematic reviews.” (Harker & Kleijnen, 2012)

"Reviews of increasing complexity, from narrative reviews to systematic reviews... with complexity comes an increase in time & resources needed" 
(HLWIKI, 2013)


General comparison of rapid review versus systematic review approaches

  Rapid Review Systematic Review
Timeframe < 5 Weeks 6 months to 2 Years
Question     Question specified a priori (may include broad PICOS)  Often a focused clinical question (focused PICOS)
Sources and searches Sources may be limited but sources/strategies made explicit  Comprehensive sources searched and explicit strategies
Selection Criterion-based; uniformly applied Criterion-based
Appraisal Rigorous; critical appraisal (SRs only) Rigorous; critical appraisal
Synthesis Descriptive summary/categorization of the data  Qualitative summary +/- meta-analysis
Inferences Limited/cautious interpretation of the findings  Evidence-based

(Khangura, Konnyu, Cushman, Grimshaw, & Moher, 2012)


Harker, J., & Kleijnen, J. (2012). What is a rapid review? A methodological exploration of rapid reviews in Health Technology Assessments. Int J Evid Based Healthc, 10(4), 397-410. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-1609.2012.00290.x

HLWIKI, Canada (2013, 18 April 2013 22:13 UTC). Rapid evidence-assessments (REAs). HLWIKI Canada.  Retrieved 19 April 2013 13:44 UTC, 2013, from

Khangura, S., Konnyu, K., Cushman, R., Grimshaw, J., & Moher, D. (2012). Evidence summaries: the evolution of a rapid review approach. Syst Rev, 1(1), 10. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-1-10

What is the Librarian's Role?

 “Health librarians' role in REAs

Reviewing evidence takes time and health librarians can use various techniques to help their clients. One of the key questions for health librarians is how to assist researchers in the process of planning and carrying out research, and whether rapid assessments meet their needs. This requires a range of skills, knowledge and abilities on the part of the attending health librarian, and includes topics as diverse as understanding the challenges of information retrieval in a fragmented literature and the trends associated with finding the grey literature.”

(HLWIKI, 2013)