Issue Brief Methodology

The evidence review for this issue brief was conducted as a rapid review, a methodology that streamlines the process for a systematic review to synthesize relevant evidence in a timely manner for decision-makers in policy or other sectors. While there is not a single, standardized protocol for rapid reviews, rigorous and clearly defined processes are employed to study best available evidence on a subject. Rapid reviews generally include research protocol development, explanation of methods used along with strengths and limitations, synthesis of evidence in a narrative summary, inclusion of policy recommendations and implications, and review of the report internally and in some cases externally.[i],[ii] The specific protocol may depend on topic and scope but usually includes searching multiple databases, use of two reviewers for article inclusion, critical appraisal of articles, and searching alternative sources for non-peer reviewed literature. Although the scope of rapid reviews is narrower than a systematic review, when compared for use in health care policy and practice, conclusions reached by the different methodologies are similar.[iii],[iv]

Rapid review methodology

  1. Articulate the decision to be made by whom and for what purpose
  2. Identify question or information needed for decision makers to act.
  3. Develop search strategy and conduct search.
  4. Conduct title and abstract review; document reasons for article exclusion.
  5. Conduct full text review.
  6. Synthesize evidence into a narrative report.
  7. Disseminate report to decision makers.

A research librarian was consulted to design the search strategy and optimize search terms. The peer-reviewed literature was searched in Ovid Medline and PsycInfo, limited to English language studies in humans from the past 10 years. Non-peer reviewed literature was searched using Google and limited to PDF documents from government (.gov), academic (.edu), or organizational (.org, .int) sites from the past 5-10 years (date range was reduced pending number of relevant results). Titles and abstracts were reviewed for relevance by authors, and exclusions were confirmed by a second reviewer. Full text review was then completed and exclusions again were confirmed by a second reviewer. Additional articles were identified based on expert recommendation, a snowball method of reviewing existing article citations, and for background purposes. The report was reviewed by both internal and external reviewers.


Rapid reviews may be subject to selection and publication bias, as well as the risk of over restricting the database search. Expert consultation for article recommendations and confirmation of article exclusions by a second reviewer were implemented to minimize these limitations. A quality assessment of articles was not conducted; however, when available, sources of a higher level of evidence (e.g. systematic review) were prioritized.

[i] National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. Methods: Synthesis 1. Rapid reviews: Methods and implications. [fact sheet]. Hamilton, ON: National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. Retrieved from: Synthesis1.pdf.

[ii] Haby, M. M., Chapman, E., Clark, R., Barreto, J., Reveiz, L., & Lavis, J. N. (2016). What are the best methodologies for rapid reviews of the research evidence for evidence-informed decision making in health policy and practice: a rapid review. Health research policy and systems, 14(1), 83.

[iii] Watt, A., Cameron, A., Sturm, L., Lathlean, T. Babidge, W., Blamey, S. …Maddern, G. (2008). Rapid versus full systematic reviews: Validity in clinical practice? ANZ Journal of Surgery, 78, 1037-1040.

[iv] Abou-Setta, A.M., Jeyaraman, M., Attia, A., Al-Inany, H.G., Ferri, M., Ansari, M.T., Garritty, C.M., Bond, K., Norris, S.L. (2016). Methods for developing evidence reviews in short periods of time: a scoping review. PloS one11(12), e0165903.