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Understanding Review Types: Rapid Reviews

This guide includes a series of blog posts written by Grace Romund (2017) for the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library. Some slight modifications have been made to update the work and ensure link consistency.

Rapid Reviews

A rapid review is a description of existing literature. Rapid reviews are conducted using the same methods as in a systematic review.

Rapid reviews differ from other review types because decisions about the process of conducting the review are centered on the time allotted for the completion of the review.  For example, the completeness of the initial search is determined by time constraints as well as the formal quality assessment is time-limited.

These reviews are typically narrative in style and describe how much literature is published on a topic, as well as the literature’s general inclination (or lack thereof) towards practice recommendations.

There are the same six steps to consider in rapid review searching as there are in systematic review searching. They are:

  1. Plan – Frame research question, determine inclusion and exclusion criteria for studies, create project management outline including deadlines and responsibilities, and develop protocol.
  2. Identify – Determine search terms and databases to search, retrieve studies and document findings.
  3. Evaluate – Screen, select, sort, and appraise studies.
  4. Collect & Code – Determine forms, code selected studies, and synthesize data extracted.
  5. Explain – Analyze findings and put them into context.
  6. Summarize – Write up the report.

Both the thoroughness of the “Identify” and “Evaluate” steps in the rapid review process are largely influenced by the amount of time available to the reviewers to complete the review.

Librarians are involved most heavily with step two: the “Identify” step, where expert search skills play a crucial role. Searching is a critical part of rapid reviews and errors made in the search process can result in biased or incomplete evidence.

Researchers seeking help with rapid reviews can help their librarians by having a general sense of the literature in the field (see our previous post on literature reviews), including knowledge of key works and specialized terminology.



Grant, M. & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x


Other Readings

Tricco A et al(eds). 2017.  Rapid Reviews to Strengthen Health Policy and Systems: a Practical Guide. World Health Organization.

Dobbins M. 2017. Rapid Review Guidebook: Steps for Conducting a Rapid Review. National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools.

Khangura S et al. Rapid Review: An Emerging Approach to Evidence Synthesis in Health Technology Assessment. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 2014. 30(1): 20-27. doi:10.1017/S0266462313000664

Ganann R, Ciliska D, Thomas H. Expediting systematic reviews: methods and implications of rapid reviews. Implement Sci. 2010. 5:56. doi:10.1186/1748-5908-5-56

This article was originally part of the HSL News series Understanding review types. For more information about this series, read the series’ introduction.

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