Critical appraisal in rapid systematic reviews of COVID-19 studies: implementation of the Quality Criteria Checklist (QCC)

Daphne Duval, Nicola Pearce-Smith, Jennifer C. Palmer, Jason Kwasi Sarfo-Annin, Paul Rudd, Rachel Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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In this letter, we briefly describe how we selected and implemented the quality criteria checklist (QCC) as a critical appraisal tool in rapid systematic reviews conducted to inform public health advice, guidance and policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. As these rapid reviews usually included a range of study designs, it was key to identify a single tool that would allow for reliable critical appraisal across most experimental and observational study designs and applicable to a range of topics. After carefully considering a number of existing tools, the QCC was selected as it had good interrater agreement between three reviewers (Fleiss kappa coefficient 0.639) and was found to be easy and fast to apply once familiar with the tool. The QCC consists of 10 questions, with sub-questions to specify how it should be applied to a specific study design. Four of these questions are considered as critical (on selection bias, group comparability, intervention/exposure assessment and outcome assessment) and the rating of a study (high, moderate or low methodological quality) depends on the responses to these four critical questions. Our results suggest that the QCC is an appropriate critical appraisal tool to assess experimental and observational studies within COVID-19 rapid reviews. This study was done at pace during the COVID-19 pandemic; further reliability analyses should be conducted, and more research is needed to validate the QCC across a range of public health topics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date27 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding information: We did not receive any funding for this work.

Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Publisher Copyright: © Crown 2023.

Citation: Duval, D., Pearce-Smith, N., Palmer, J.C. et al. Critical appraisal in rapid systematic reviews of COVID-19 studies: implementation of the Quality Criteria Checklist (QCC). Syst Rev 12, 55 (2023).



  • Critical appraisal
  • Public health
  • Rapid systematic reviews
  • Risk of bias tool


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