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Systematic Review

This guide aims to provide tools and resources that can be used for conducting a systematic review in medical and health sciences.

What is a Rapid Review?

“Rapid reviews are a form of knowledge synthesis in which components of the systematic review process are simplified or omitted to produce information in a timely manner” 

Source: Tricco, A. C., Antony, J., Zarin, W., Strifler, L., Ghassemi, M., Ivory, J., Perrier, L., Hutton, B., Moher, D., & Straus, S. E. (2015). A scoping review of rapid review methods. BMC Medicine, 13(1), 224-224. 

When do we use Rapid Review

Rapid review follows the same methods and protocols as a systematic review, but the steps and stages of the review are streamlined or accelerated to provide evidence in a shortened timeframe (typically done in less than 5 weeks). 

Rapid review can be used for:

  • new and emerging topics,
  • updating previously completed reviews,
  • planning, developing and implementing health policy (evidence is often required by policy-makers).

Comparison of Rapid Review with Systematic Review

The table below provides a general comparison of rapid review versus systematic review approachesa

  Rapid Review Systematic Review
Timeframeb ≤ 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 are 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 with or without meta-analysis
Inferences Limited/cautious interpretation of the findings Evidence-based

a specific to the context of Knowledge to Action (KTA) research program - other groups have experimented with other approaches of rapid review and will therefore have other differences; Primary difference; other potentially important differences are noted in the cells. PICOS = population, interventions, comparators, outcomes and study designs; SR = systematic review

Source: Khangura, S., Konnyu, K., Cushman, R., Grimshaw, J., & Moher, D. (2012). Evidence summaries: The evolution of a rapid review approach. Systematic Reviews, 1(1), 10. 

Sample Rapid Review

Anglemyer, A., Moore, T. H. M., Parker, L., Chambers, T., Grady, A., Chiu, K., Parry, M., Wilczynska, M., Flemyng, E., & Bero, L. (2020). Digital contact tracing technologies in epidemics: A rapid review. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews(8). 

Schmidt, B., Malinga, T., & Davids, E. (2020). Quarantine alone or in combination with other public health measures to control COVID-19 : A rapid Cochrane review. South African Medical Journal, 110(6), 476-477.

Viswanathan, M., Kahwati, L., Jahn, B., Giger, K., Dobrescu, A. I., Hill, C., Klerings, I., Meixner, J., Persad, E., Teufer, B., & Gartlehner, G. (2020). Universal screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection: A rapid review. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews, 9(9), Cd013718.