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A Guide to Conducting Reviews: Rapid Review

This LibGuide outlines some of the common types of reviews including literature, systematic, and scoping reviews, and lists some ways by which University Librarians can assist in conducting such reviews.


Definition: A form of knowledge synthesis that applies systematic review methodology within a time-constrained setting. That is, the components or steps of the systematic review process are simplified, accelerated/fast-tracked, or omitted/side-stepped to produce information in a shortened timeframe.

Aim: To expedite the conduct of reviews to inform health policy and systems decisions, and to provide actionable and relevant evidence in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Key characteristics: A rapid review is best designed for new or emerging research topics, updates of previous reviews, critical topics, to assess what is already known about a policy or practice.

Main steps:

  • Identify a research topic and frame a narrow research question
  • Select your study inclusion and exclusion criteria (e.g. time period, language, location, age range, animal or human studies, type of published material)
  • Create a study search protocol using keywords from the research question
  • Plan and execute a literature search using a key database
  • Store all citations and maintain a record
  • Screen your results to select eligible documents
  • Report for publication

Strengths: Useful for addressing issues that need quick decisions. Faster time to completion, typically done in 5 weeks up to 3 months.

Drawbacks/Limitations: Risk of missing the significance of a theme that emerges from the literature. Greater chance of bias. Limited appraisal and assessment. Limitation of the search not being comprehensive.

Source: Cochrane Training. (2018, August 22). Difference between systematic reviews and rapid reviews [Video]. YouTube.