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Rapid reviews

Rapid reviews are used primarily within the field of healthcare research and is a version of the systematic review, in which the individual stages are omitted or carried out more quickly, to accommodate decision-makers in the health sector [1].


Overview – the different steps of a rapid review

The differences between systematic reviews and rapid reviews is illustrated below [3-5]:



Rapid review

Systematic review

Time frames

1 to 6 months

6 to 24 months


Relevant databases

Relevant databases

Citation searching

Grey literature


May have limitations on publication dates and languages

No limitations


Two reviewers will screen the first 20 % together, working from predefined criteria of inclusion.

One reviewer will screen the rest, the other will verify.

Two independent reviewers will screen all references from predefined criteria of inclusion.


Data extraction

One reviewer will extract data, the other will verify.

Two independent reviewers will extract data.

Quality evaluation

One reviewer will make the quality assessments, the other will verify.

Two independent reviewers will do the quality assessment.

Synthesis of evidence

Only a narrative synthesis will be made. A meta-analysis will only be made if appropriate.

Both a narrative synthesis and a meta-analysis will be made.

Quality of evidence


One reviewer will evaluate the quality of the evidence (GRADE), the other will verify the evaluations.

Two independently reviewers will evaluate the quality of the evidence.

Rapid reviews are often performed to support decision-makers within the healthcare sector. They should be consulted when formulating the research question, in order to secure that the review addresses the relevant problem [4, 5]. The research question is an important part of a review and the decision-makers will often formulate very broad questions. Their expectations should be addressed and adjusted through dialogue, so that a more tightly focused research question is formulated [3, 5]. Conceptualization models can be used to formulate focused research questions. These models will help with structuring and defining concepts of the question (See Systematic reviews: research question and protocol. Additionally, the scope can be limited further by focusing on one intervention, control group and outcome.[4].

It is recommended to write a protocol for any review, stating the rationale, hypothesis, and methods for the review [4, 5]. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) have developed a reporting guide for systematic review protocols [6].

The protocol can be registered in PROSPERO or Open Science Framework (OSF) Registries.

As initially described, rapid reviews are often conducted in order to support decisions-makers. The decision-makers and the project team are advised to describe the in- and exclusion criteria in cooperation to address the relevant problem and to ensure focus [4, 5].

Please go to the systematic search section on the University Library site on systematic reviews and the step-by-step guide / description for preparing a systematic search from Bramer et al. [7].

Garrity et al. introduced a method for accelerating the screening process in rapid reviews through a delphi study [4]. At title/abstract level of screening, both reviewers will screen at a minimum 20 % of the identified records and make consensus. One reviewer will screen the remaining records, and the other reviewer will review the excluded studies. The same method applies to full-text screening. This method was found acceptable in the delphi study, but Tricco et al. recommend that two individual reviewers should screen and select studies to minimize selection bias [5].


Please go to the section Reference management and sorting of literature on the systematic reviews site.

The quality assessment and data extraction can be performed by one reviewer, but it has been recommended that another reviewer should verify the data extraction and quality evaluation [4, 5]. In quality assessment, a validated tool is preferable and the assessment can be accelerated by only rating the quality of the outcome measures that are most central to decision making [4].

Tricco et al. recommend including a general section on results, in which the studies that have been included and their results are described, as well as a meta-analysis, if this is relevant to the problem [5]. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) can be used to evaluate the level of evidence for each outcome measure [12]. One reviewer can perform the grading of evidence and another can verify the evaluations [4].


The rapid review method may introduce bias and uncertainty to results compared with the systematic review method [13].

  1. Moher, D., L. Stewart, and P. Shekelle, All in the Family: systematic reviews, rapid reviews, scoping reviews, realist reviews, and more. Syst Rev, 2015. 4: p. 183.
  2.  Tricco, A.C., et al., A scoping review of rapid review methods. BMC Med, 2015. 13: p. 224.
  3.  Khangura, S., et al., Evidence summaries: the evolution of a rapid review approach. Systematic reviews, 2012. 1(1): p. 1-9.
  4.  Garritty, C., et al., Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group offers evidence-informed guidance to conduct rapid reviews. J Clin Epidemiol, 2020. 130: p. 13-22.
  5.  World Health Organization, Rapid Reviews to Strengthen Health Policy and Systems: A practical Guide, A.C. Tricco, E.V. Langlois, and S.E. Straus, Editors. 2017, WHO, link
  6.  Moher, D., et al., Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement. Systematic reviews, 2015. 4(1): p. 1-9.
  7.  Bramer, W.M., et al., A systematic approach to searching: an efficient and complete method to develop literature searches. J Med Libr Assoc, 2018. 106(4): p. 531-541.
  8.  Higgins, J.P., et al., Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. 2019: John Wiley & Sons.
  9.  The EndNote Team, EndNote. 2013, Clarivate: Philadelphia, PA.
  10.  Veritas Health Innovation, Covidence systematic review software. Melbourne, Australia.
  11.  McKeown, S. and Z.M. Mir, Considerations for conducting systematic reviews: evaluating the performance of different methods for de-duplicating references. Systematic Reviews, 2021. 10(1): p. 38.
  12.  Guyatt, G.H., et al., GRADE: an emerging consensus on rating quality of evidence and strength of recommendations. Bmj, 2008. 336(7650): p. 924-926.
  13.  Featherstone, R.M., et al., Advancing knowledge of rapid reviews: an analysis of results, conclusions and recommendations from published review articles examining rapid reviews. Syst Rev, 2015. 4: p. 50.

Last Updated 08.11.2021