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Writing Review Articles: Rigor Required

By Barbara Gastel | Oct. 2, 2017  | Research writing Research skills

Greetings again. I hope you’ve had a good month.

Currently I'm helping with an intensive online course in research writing. Most of those taking the course are writing articles presenting original data. Some, though, are writing review articles—that is, articles summarizing and integrating research from many papers.

A good review article helps readers efficiently gain a sound understanding of a subject. It also helps them identify relevant papers to obtain. Because people rely on review articles for these purposes, writing a review article is a big responsibility.

To fulfill their functions, review articles must be thorough, accurate, balanced, and clear. Thus, preparing a good review article is rigorous work. Among other things, it requires gathering information suitably. But how can readers know whether the authors have done so?

Including a methods section in a review article can aid in this regard. Increasingly, it seems, review articles are containing methods sections. Like the methods sections of articles presenting original data, these methods sections can help readers to evaluate the work and do similar work themselves.

Some items that methods sections of review articles may specify are the following:

  • databases searched
  • search terms used
  • years covered
  • languages included
  • types of articles included and excluded

Such information can help readers to evaluate a review article and use it appropriately.

Of course, a good review article also has other aspects. For guidance, please see the AuthorAID Resource Library's materials on writing review articles. These materials include a recent PowerPoint presentation.

Other resources include the PRISMA website. PRISMA stands for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Some content of the PRISMA website also can apply to other types of review articles.

Until next month—


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