Benefits of writing and publishing review articles
In previous articles, we have looked at the importance of a literature review and how it can help with preparing a strong research proposal. Did you know that a review article is a form of formal publication aside from conference proceedings, journal articles and workshops or posters? In this article, we will look into how to write a review article and what are the benefits to publishing one.
What is a review article?
A review paper, also known as a survey paper, is a thorough, analytical examination of previously published peer reviewed articles. It provides an overview of current research works on a particular topic in a chronological order with an aim to point out the key research gaps and highlight avenues for future research.
What is the purpose of a review article?
The primary purpose of a review article is to provide an updated and comprehensive overview of the latest advances in a specific field of research. Review articles are generally solicited by an editor from a specialist in the field.
Apart from providing an overview of the latest advances in a specific field of research, review articles also have the following benefits:
- Gaining a better understanding of a topic: When you are new to a field of research, review papers can provide you with a good introductory overview of the field. It can also help you understand the research gaps and current trends in the field.
Developing research ideas: Review papers can provide good ideas for future research. By reading review papers, you can get a better understanding of the research that has been conducted in the past and the current trends. This can help you generate new ideas for future research.
Strengthening your research proposal: A review paper can be helpful in strengthening your research proposal. When you cite a review paper in your proposal, it will give reviewers a better sense of the current state of research in the field and how your research will contribute to the field.
What are the benefits of publishing a review article?
If you have never written a review article before, you’d probably not know this but writing one takes a significant amount of effort and time. To put this into perspective, just take any of the recent research papers from your field and place it side by side with a review article and compare the number of references in both. This is just to give you an idea of the amount of reading and analysis that is involved with writing a review article.
The critical thing to note here is that there is a slight nuance between a literature review and the way a review article is written. In case of the former, you curate a list of the closest matching competing works, a.k.a. the state of the art, but in case of the latter, you need to critique them which takes effort but more on that later.
Despite all this time and effort, there are significant benefits of publishing a review article and very likely your field already has some review articles published ahead of your time. Here are some benefits of publishing review articles:
- Gaining visibility and recognition in your field: Review articles are generally more visible and more highly cited than primary research papers. This is because review papers provide a comprehensive overview of the latest advances in a field of research and are thus considered to be more useful to the readers. As a result, review papers tend to be more highly cited than primary research papers thereby also increasing the impact of your research.
Increasing your chance of getting tenure: In many institutions, tenure is based on research productivity and impact. Review articles are generally more visible and more highly cited than primary research papers. As a result, publishing a review article can increase your chance of getting tenure.
Improving your teaching: Review articles can be used in your teaching to give your students a better overview of the current state of research in a particular field.
Helping you get funding: Review articles can be helpful in getting funding for your research. When you cite a review article in your proposal, it will give reviewers a better sense of the current state of research in the field and how your research will contribute to the field.
Thus, publishing a review article can have many benefits both intellectually and professionally.
Differences between a review article and a research paper
A review article is different from a research paper in several ways:
- A review article covers previously published works while a research paper reports on new research findings
- A review article is mostly based on secondary sources while a research paper is mostly based on primary sources
- A review article is mostly descriptive while a research paper is mostly analytical
- A review article is mostly a literature survey while a research paper tests a hypothesis
- A review article covers a specific topic in depth while a research paper is more focused
- A review article covers a wide range of publications while a research paper is more limited in scope
Types of review articles
There are several types of review articles, some of which are:
- Systematic review: These are review articles that use a systematic and transparent methodology to identify, select and critically appraise all the available evidence on a particular research question.
- Meta-analysis: These are review articles that use statistical methods to combine the results of several primary studies that address a similar research question.
- Literature review: These are review articles that provide a summary of the current state of knowledge on a particular topic.
- Systematic literature review: These are review articles that use a systematic and transparent methodology to identify, select and critically appraise all the available evidence on a particular research question.
- Scoping review: These are review articles that map the key characteristics of a body of evidence.
- Rapid review: These are review articles that are conducted and completed within a shorter timeframe as compared to traditional review articles.
Key components of a review article
Each review article has the following key components:
- Title: The title of a review article should be concise and descriptive. It should be able to convey the main idea of the article in a few words. Sometimes, the authors add a qualifier to the title such as “XXXXXX: A Survey” or ” Review of YYYYYY” to make it apparent that it is a review manuscript.
- Abstract: The abstract of a review article should provide an overview of the article including the motivation and problem statement. It should clearly highlight the key conclusions and why the underlying problem is worth addressing.
- Introduction: The introduction of a review article should provide a background of the topic and the scope of the review. It should also state the objectives of the review.
- Methods: The methods section of a review article should describe the search strategy and the inclusion and exclusion criteria used in the review.
- Results: The results section of a review article should present the findings of the review in a concise and structured manner. Now the actual details of this section might vary depending on nature of research niche. For instance, it could be purely quantitative analysis or, it could involve running the experiments over known benchmarks to evaluate multiple approaches on a unified standard. In some cases, it could be quantitative representing missing aspects of current research thereby surfacing gaps in current approaches.
- Discussion: The discussion section of a review article should interpret the findings of the review and put them in the context of the existing literature.
- Conclusion: The conclusion section of a review article should summarize the main findings of the review and state the implications of the findings.
- References: The references section of a review article should list all the sources that were used in the review.
Process of writing a review article
The process of writing a review article can be divided into the following stages:
- Choose a topic: The topic of the survey paper should be something that you are interested in and have expertise in. This will ensure that you are able to write a good quality review article and are familiar with the current approaches and how they are typically evaluated.
- Do a literature search: It is important to do a literature search to identify all the relevant publications on the chosen topic. While conducting the survey exercise, be sure to plan and manage your literature review database carefully as you will be referring to this for the next steps. At the same time, try and filter out some of the recent surveys in your areas of research. This will give you an idea of how to structure your own survey manuscript but also find a suitable approach that makes your survey better than the existing ones. Note that by “better” the aim here is not to simply add a couple of more recent references to the mix. You need to be able to justify the findings that warrant a totally new survey publication despite having some recently published ones.
- Identify typical publication venues: Once you have curated a significantly thorough literature review database, try and analyze the patterns of the typical publication venues. This will give you an idea of the potential venues (usually journals) that could be ideal for you to submit your own manuscript.
- Understand the submission process of shortlisted venues:
As mentioned earlier, writing a survey paper is a significant commitment so not only do you need to have your head in the game fully, but also be sure that when you finish with the manuscript there is a venue to submit it. Various journals might do this process differently and in some cases, there might be a possibility to submit a one pager proposal with high level information about the focal theme of your manuscript. This is actually a very useful exercise, if possible, as you can gauge early response of the community and the odds if it will make it to the review stage.
- Read and critically appraise the publications: Once you have identified all the relevant publications and have a tentative approval for submission to a suitable venue, it is important to read and critically appraise them. This will help you identify the gaps in the existing literature.
- Write the article: Once you have identified the gaps in the existing literature, you can start writing the review article.
- Submit the article: Once you have finished writing the review article, you can submit it to a journal for publication.
A review article is a form of formal publication albeit different from a research paper.
The main aim of a review article is to consolidate knowledge on a particular topic, provide an overview of the current state of research, identify research gaps and propose future directions for research.
The benefits of publishing a review article include helping to consolidate your position as an expert in the field, increasing your citation count, improving your h-index and increasing visibility of your work.