11 simple rules of writing scientific reviews (Part 2)
Rule number 6: Be critical and consistent
Writing literature reviews – this is not stamp collecting. A good review is a compilation of not only literature, but also its critical analysis, which helps to identify methodological problems and point to gaps in research.
After reading your review, quick-witted reader should get an idea of the following:
– What are the main achievements in described area
– What are the major contentious issues in the region
– What are the major scientific issues and perspectives of their solution
Of course, successful answer to all three questions in one review would be untold success. Not always one author can have such global thinking – therefore attracting the co-authors will significantly increase the quality of the article. Every scientist has its strengths: a perfectly describes the work of the other deftly criticize other people’s work and identify problem areas, and the third well organizes and summarizes the results of various studies. If you can assemble a team of specialists – review will succeed. If you are the “three in one” – then, perhaps, you do not make sense to read this article. Excuse me.
By the way, in addition to critical thinking, literature review needs a good style and grammar. Be sure to ask colleagues to read the final draft before publication.
Rule number 7: Think structurally
A good review is timely, systematic, easy to read, structured and critical. In surveys rarely use the structure of the experimental articles (introduction, methods, results, discussion). Instead, the author each time chooses his own narrative logic that may be dictated by the very subject of the review. Although there is no single format, the whole work should be divided into multiple logical partitions which will be preceded by a short introduction and summarized at the end of a repetition of the main findings.
How to streamline the flow of the main text in its review so that your reader does not get lost in it and understand the meaning of written? It is useful to bring conceptual diagrams or charts that allow to keep before the eyes of narrative logic. A well-executed illustrations allow us to understand the basic idea, even without detailed reading.
Rule number 8: Consider the comments of reviewers
Literature reviews are usually reviewed as strictly as research articles. As a general rule, taking into account comments and opinions of your reviewers greatly improves the original version of the review. Carefully read the review, reviewers by fresh eyes snatch those inaccuracies, inconsistencies or unsolved problems, which you have not seen. By the way, carefully re-read the entire review before being sent directly to the magazine – no typos and complicated proposals would allow reviewers to focus on the essence of the article, and not on the claims to style.
Tips of reviewers are very important, so you should try to get a review by experts from different fields of science. On the one hand, it can lead to conflicting views on the merits review and inconsistent councils to improve the text. On the other hand, this situation is better than no feedback at all. A variety of comments will help you determine what the opinions of experts converge, and where there are points of contention.
Rule number 9: Include an overview your own research, but be modest and objective
Typically, review authors have made progress in the area described have published a number of experimental studies on this topic. This can create a conflict of interests – it is difficult to objectively judge your own work. Scientists may be slightly overestimated what they have done themselves. And, nevertheless, we should not overly modest – if you were asked to write a review, it already means that your work is something so worth it. Try to objectively correlate your data with colleagues data. The reviews written by several authors, the objective is achieved easier as each co-edits the text and has the possibility to be realistic about achieving peers.
Rule number 10: Use fresh data, but do not forget about the classics
Given the rapid growth in the number of scientific papers, reviews of the literature in many areas of biology, quickly become obsolete and lose their relevance. But do not let that scare – really good analysis will be relevant for a long time. Each experimental article, as it is new and beautiful it may be, only covers a narrow area of a broad front of science. To generalize, to think and to show the general direction of development of this or that direction – that the main task of the review. Let five years, this analysis will have incomplete or outdated – anyway, this review does not lose its value and serve as a starting point for the following works. This work will serve as a historical milestone in the development of one of the scientific subjects.
Rule number 11: Practice
It’s impossible to become an accomplished writer, having read tips on how to become a writer. It’ is impossible to become an painter, looking at the drawing course on TV. You can not write a good review without practice. And while you are young scientist, and scientific journals do not offer you a lot of orders to the reviews – write them yourself. Start with the popular expositions. If you can write a review of the literature, which, as you think, reflects the latest trends in your industry on a high scientific level – try to send it in a scientific journal. Often some journals may publish the review, sent not an eminent author, if the level of presentation and topics raised will really original. In general, do not wait for favors from magazine editors, begin to write themselves!
And in conclusion
Successful reviews written in the 80s, today is rarely read. However, they at one time served as a foundation for scientific papers 90 of which grew the experimental theory of the 2000s. And today’s book cite willingly some old classics like article, which should be equal.