Key steps and resources for publishing research articles in Science areas. What You'll Find on this Page This page features a discussion of each of the following components of writing a scientific review article: Choosing a topic and finding articles What questions to answer in your review Which sections to include and tips for writing them Other tips and tricks are featured underneath this box. Tips for Writing Review Articles Tips for Writing Your First Scientific Literature Review Article This page, written by a grad student, gives first-hand advice about how to go about writing a review article for the first time.
It is a quick, easy read that will help you find your footing as you begin! A note on reviews Reviews are usually published by experts in the field. Choosing a Topic If you need to write a review article but don't know where to start, keep some of these tips in mind. Choose a topic that is not too broad and not too narrow for the type of review you would like to write.
If you want to write a shorter review, pick a narrower topic. But if you are going to be writing a longer review or you'd like to explore a more general area of interest, choose a topic that is wide enough so that you will be able to find enough articles to discuss. Pick something you're interested in and that you have experience researching.
A review is meant to be a survey of the current state of a field - and the less you know about a field or topic at the outset, the more work you're going to have to do in order to have an authoritative voice that can provide insight about the research that has been done. Choose a topic that will be interesting to others whether it's currently receiving a lot of attention, it's a controversial topic, or it's in a well-established field.
You want to contribute to the knowledge base and understanding of other scientists so make sure it centers around a topic that has a good-sized audience! Information to Consider in Your Review: What to Write About When doing research for your review, here is a list of questions to consider as you read through articles to potentially include: What is the thesis or problem being addressed in this paper?
What are the strengths and limitations of the study? Is there a better way to answer the research question? How does the author approach the study - from a theoretical, experimental, interpretive, or clinical etc. Did they choose the best approach? Is the author using an assumed theoretical framework such as, for example, psychoanalytic or developmental? In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial.
If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors. Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published.
This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.
Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic including independently written literature reviews will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science  — . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature. Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T.
Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.
PLoS Comput Biol. Published online Jul Philip E. Bourne, Editor. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited.
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience How to choose which topic to review? The topic must at least be: interesting to you ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary , an important aspect of the field so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it , and a well-defined issue otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful.
Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here: keep track of the search items you use so that your search can be replicated  , keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies , use a paper management system e. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. A conceptual diagram of the need for different types of literature reviews depending on the amount of published research papers and literature reviews.
Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting.
After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of: the major achievements in the reviewed field, the main areas of debate, and the outstanding research questions. Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical.
Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so . Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. Rule Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published.
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