Assessing the format and content of journal published and non-journal published rapid review reports: A comparative study

Chantelle Garritty, Mona Hersi, Candyce Hamel, Adrienne Stevens, Zarah Monfaredi, Claire Butler, Andrea C Tricco, Lisa Hartling, Lesley A Stewart, Vivian Welch, Kednapa Thavorn, Wei Cheng, David Moher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: As production of rapid reviews (RRs) increases in healthcare, knowing how to efficiently convey RR evidence to various end-users is important given they are often intended to directly inform decision-making. Little is known about how often RRs are produced in the published or unpublished domains, and what and how information is structured.

OBJECTIVES: To compare and contrast report format and content features of journal-published (JP) and non-journal published (NJP) RRs.

METHODS: JP RRs were identified from key databases, and NJP RRs were identified from a grey literature search of 148 RR producing organizations and were sampled proportionate to cluster size by organization and product type to match the JP RR group. We extracted and formally compared 'how' (i.e., visual arrangement) and 'what' information was presented.

RESULTS: We identified 103 RRs (52 JP and 51 NJP) from 2016. A higher percentage of certain features were observed in JP RRs compared to NJP RRs (e.g., reporting authors; use of a traditional journal article structure; section headers including abstract, methods, discussion, conclusions, acknowledgments, conflict of interests, and author contributions; and use of figures (e.g., Study Flow Diagram) in the main document). For NJP RRs, a higher percentage of features were observed (e.g., use non-traditional report structures; bannering of executive summary sections and appendices; use of typographic cues; and including outcome tables). NJP RRs were more than double in length versus JP RRs. Including key messages was uncommon in both groups.

CONCLUSIONS: This comparative study highlights differences between JP and NJP RRs. Both groups may benefit from better use of plain language, and more clear and concise design. Alternative innovative formats and end-user preferences for content and layout should be studied further with thought given to other considerations to ensure better packaging of RR results to facilitate uptake into policy and practice.

STUDY REGISTRATION: The full protocol is available at:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0238025
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Garritty et al.

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