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Rapid Reviews

What are inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are used to define those articles of interest.

These criteria are usually applied to the results of a search and are not used to limit the search results.

Many of the criteria are determined by the elements of the question, such as limiting selected papers by the population, participants or problem under investigation, the type of intervention and outcomes.

Common criteria to use for inclusion or exclusion include:

  • Population group
  • Setting
  • Age of participants
  • Study design
  • Condition or exposure of interest
  • Geographic location
  • Outcomes
  • Confounding factors that would skew or negate the results

The type of question being asked may also determine the inclusion or exclusion criteria for types of studies which may be used in the review.


Does the use of chlorhexidine mouthwash reduce gingivitis?
Included:  Criteria type: Excluded: Criteria type:
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) study design studies where the duration of mouthrinsing was less than 4 weeks study design
duration of mouthrinsing was at least 4 weeks study design cross-over studies in case chlorhexidine could exert an effect beyond the washout period study design / confounding factor
children or adults with gingivitis or periodontitis capable of performing normal mechanical oral hygiene procedures population & condition where chlorhexidine mouthrinse was used as a monotherapy in the absence of mechanical oral hygiene procedures study design
chlorhexidine mouthrinse (used at any concentration, volume, frequency or duration of rinsing) used in conjunction with mechanical oral hygiene procedures exposure of interest where the chlorhexidine mouthrinse formed part of a combined intervention with other agents that the comparator arm(s) did not receive study design / confounding factor
    where the mechanical oral hygiene procedures were not the same in both the chlorhexidine mouthrinse and the comparator arm(s) study design / confounding factor
    where chlorhexidine mouthrinse was applied locally e.g. with a brush or via subgingival irrigation study design / confounding factor
    where gingivitis was not measured using a recognised index/scale. study design


Limiting the search

Rapid reviews often use limits as part of the search strategy to reduce the time needed for the review.

Limits commonly used for rapid reviews include:

  • date
  • language
  • study design
  • geography 

These limits need to be clearly stated and defined to highlight limitations to the review.

Types of studies

The following table shows some different types of questions that may be asked as part of a review, and the types of studies that may apply. Depending on the question being asked, these may help determine the types of studies that may be used as part of the inclusion or exclusion criteria.

Type of question
Study designs
Treatment or Therapy or Solution
Effect of intervention on patient, population or setting of interest Trial or experiment; Cohort; Case control; Case series
Harm or Aetiology (Causation)

Effect of potentially harmful agents

Cross sectional or prospective, blind comparison to gold standard

Power of a test to differentiate between those with or without a disease or condition

Trial or experiment; Cohort; Case control; Case series
Prognosis or Forecast

Estimate of a likely course over time

Cohort; Case control; Case series
Social Sciences

Reducing chance by changing risk factors or diagnosing and treating early Trial or experiment; Cohort; Case control; Case series
Participants experience or attitudes Narrative; Qualitative; Ethnographic; Phenomenological; Grounded theory; Case studies

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