Rapid evidence synthesis approach for limits on the search date: How rapid could it be?

Res Synth Methods. 2022 Jan;13(1):68-76. doi: 10.1002/jrsm.1525. Epub 2021 Sep 27.


Rapid reviews have been widely employed to support timely decision-making, and limiting the search date is the most popular approach in published rapid reviews. We assessed the accuracy and workload of search date limits on the meta-analytical results to determine the best rapid strategy. The meta-analyses data were collected from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). We emulated the rapid reviews by limiting the search date of the original CDSR to the recent 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 7, 5, and 3 years, and their results were compared to the full meta-analyses. A random sample of 10% was drawn to repeat the literature search by the same timeframe limits to measure the relative workload reduction (RWR). The relationship between accuracy and RWR was established. We identified 21,363 meta-analyses of binary outcomes and 7683 meta-analyses of continuous outcomes from 2693 CDSRs. Our results suggested that under a maximum tolerance of 5% and 10% on the bias of magnitude, a limit on the recent 20 years can achieve good accuracy and at the same time save the most workload. Under the tolerance of 15% and 20% on the bias, a limit on the recent 10 years and 15 years could be considered. Limiting the search date is a valid rapid method to produce credible evidence for timely decisions. When conducting rapid reviews, researchers should consider both the accuracy and workload to make an appropriate decision.

Keywords: accuracy; limit on search date; rapid approach; rapid review; workload.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Publications*
  • Research Design*
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic