A taxonomy of rapid reviews links report types and methods to specific decision-making contexts

J Clin Epidemiol. 2015 Dec;68(12):1451-62.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.05.036. Epub 2015 Aug 14.


Objectives: Describe characteristics of rapid reviews and examine the impact of methodological variations on their reliability and validity.

Study design and setting: We conducted a literature review and interviews with organizations that produce rapid reviews or related products to identify methods, guidance, empiric evidence, and current practices.

Results: We identified 36 rapid products from 20 organizations (production time, 5 minutes to 8 months). Methods differed from systematic reviews at all stages. As time frames increased, methods became more rigorous; however, restrictions on database searching, inclusion criteria, data extracted, and independent dual review remained. We categorized rapid products based on extent of synthesis. "Inventories" list what evidence is available. "Rapid responses" present best available evidence with no formal synthesis. "Rapid reviews" synthesize the quality of and findings from the evidence. "Automated approaches" generate meta-analyses in response to user-defined queries. Rapid products rely on a close relationship with end users and support specific decisions in an identified time frame. Limited empiric evidence exists comparing rapid and systematic reviews.

Conclusions: Rapid products have tremendous methodological variation; categorization based on time frame or type of synthesis reveals patterns. The similarity across rapid products lies in the close relationship with the end user to meet time-sensitive decision-making needs.

Keywords: Automation; Interviews; Methodology; Rapid reviews; Stakeholders; Systematic reviews.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Classification*
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Review Literature as Topic*