11 simple rules of writing scientific reviews (Part 1)


Writing research reports – a separate branch of the writer’s skill, requiring the author not only deep penetration into the scientific problem, but also the ability to quickly search and analyze information, conduct a critical compilation of material from various sources, taking into account their importance and originality, as well as to present the complex and voluminous threads relatively simple language. Successful reviews awaits rebirth in the form of books and textbooks, and the weak or just poorly written work no one will read and cite. Here are a few rules that will help you find the product of your reader.


In whatever field of science you did not work, sooner or later you will be faced with writing a review of the scientific literature. Need for this work is due to the ever increasing number of new scientific developments and research. Given the speed and volume of new data, scientists simply can not physically examine each new article on their own and related fields. Therefore, scientific journal editors regularly provide leading scientists to “compile” the latest scientific achievements in their field of view. And, despite the fact that recognition usually bring experimental publications, literature reviews are a kind of a sign of prestige and therefore most scholars refers to writing reviews very seriously.


In addition to knowledge and hard work, to write review required considerable expertise. The first two qualities are entirely on your conscience, and experience required for practice as well, and 11 tips of this article, synthesized from the experience of leading researchers.


Rule number 1: Be clear overview of the subject and its audience


How to choose a topic for successful writing this review? After all, in any field there is an incredible amount of interesting problems that can be addressed. Here are some tips for choosing the theme:


– The topic should be of interest to you personally. Ideally, you should immediately recall the last dozen publications that would be appropriate is critical to disassemble.


– The topic must be relevant, best of all – the “hot”. It certainly will provide you with a lot of stuff, and your review will get the attention of a wide range of readers.


– The review should be considered clearly identified problems. It makes no sense to disassemble this or that area “in general” – it will not be enough either paper or energy.


Define your target audience. Some professionals read the magazine, where are you going to write a review? Will the topic of interest not only to biologists, but also chemists, mathematicians, teachers? Knowing the level of your reader, you will be easy to determine the level of details of the consideration of an issue.


Rule number 2: Literature search


The probability that you write a good review increases if you have already had occasion to do (even on another topic). In this case, you can use a previous publication as a basis on which to string together new data. Here are a few tips for finding information:


Do not stop at one search engine of scientific literature: it will not miss any truly worthwhile publication. About 99% of all scientific research is carried out through the system: DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science.
Keep all items in a single folder. Quickly find the desired source-help program organizers (Endnote, Mendeley). Always duplicate information in multiple independent flash drives.
Determine in advance the criteria for the relevant articles (eg, journal impact factors, the combination of keywords, etc.). These criteria should allow you to quickly select only something that can potentially be used for the review.
Look not only all of the experimental article on the topic, but also previous reviews – this will allow you to not waste time on the description already described. It is advisable to refer to such reviews, with an emphasis on new data.
Pay attention to who and where quoted recent surveys. See how their new data complement or contradict previously published.


Rule number 3: The notes in the margins


If you have just started to write an overview of selected articles and read the first time, it is essential to remember new information and impressions from reading, new thoughts and associations. It’s advisable to immediately record all this – then it will be easier to associate new ideas with the available results, your personal ideas, etc. You can write directly on the field or use stickers (if you are using a print articles), or take notes right on your computer or tablet: Almost all modern software, electronic library catalogers allow to leave a note. Literally write out quotes that are referenced in the plan review. When writing a draft, try to rephrase these quotes in your own words.


It’s very important to be careful and write references at this stage, in order to avoid subsequent throwing in an attempt to remember who belonged to those or other details. Thus, for as long as you read the selected literature itself will draft review. Of course, this draft will have more than once or twice to rewrite, rephrase and restructure in order to get the complete text with a coherent logic and honed arguments. Not be afraid. Just start taking notes, even without any system – as it moves you gradually emerges review the plan, and the farther away, the clearer and sharper it will be.


Rule number 4: Determine the type of review


If while reading the literature you always took notes, then at the end of this process you will have to represent the approximate amount of future review. This is probably the most appropriate time to decide where to go. There are two varieties of the review of the genre – mini- and full-size view. Some magazines are now choosing to publish short reviews, focused on publications of recent years, with the restriction of the number of words and quotes. Mini-review does not mean inferiority – on the contrary, it is concise and succinct article, concentrate of modern ideas, attracting the attention of busy readers to its small volume. To write a review mini-literate, you should truly masterfully wield the pen. The disadvantage of the mini-reviews is that sometimes some problems are served in a simplified way due to limited volume.


The full-size review has certain advantages: you can lead a larger amount of data and are free to dwell on those details that you consider important or interesting. However, on such “monumental” threatened with articles to be deferred to the far shelf “for a thoughtful study later” that may never come.


Also, surveys can be classified as descriptive and conceptual. Descriptive surveys focused on the methodology, sourcing and interpretation of each study – a conscientious summary of current data. The authors also put forward a conceptual overview of new ideas and concepts derived from the whole array of published materials. To write a good conceptual overview desirable to be true guru in your field and to capture the most invisible of wearing in the atmosphere of ideas. Be self-critical – if you can catch these trends correctly? And whether you have enough time? Remember: narrative reviews tend to take up a lot less time and effort.


Rule number 5: Consider the problem from different angles


No matter what it is you plan to write a review, focus on a specific issue. However in analysis helpful use data from adjacent fields. For example, if you write a review of Immunology, also include materials epidemiology, cytology, doctors and biochemists. Consideration of mechanisms for a particular problem at various levels – from molecules to populations – will allow you to clearer and more widely present the material. This work will be much more interesting to readers.


scientific reviews


Read the second part