How do you write a prize-winning literature review?

Advice from Angus Crake, Materials Science & Technology Literature Review Prize runner-up

From best papers to scholarships, travel grants to society awards, Taylor & Francis offers hundreds of awards and prizes for researchers, collaborating with journals, institutions, and societies to provide support and recognition.

Angus Crake, PhD researcher in Chemical Engineering, was recently runner-up of the Materials Science & Technology Literature Review Prize, which aims to encourage the preparation of definitive, critical reviews of the literature by students as an essential part of study for a higher degree in the materials field.

So how do you write a prize-winning literature review? What do you need to consider before you start writing? Angus shares his advice.

Practical tips

  • For collation of articles, use multiple search engines/databases so you don’t miss any important ones.
  • Be organized and use referencing software from the start.

Pre-writing

  • Define the scope of your review so that it is manageable, not too large or small; it may be necessary to focus on recent advances if the field is well established.
  • Gather research for your introduction, making it broad enough to reach out to a large audience of non-specialists.
  • Before writing the core review section, define key points you wish to collate and compare. Divide the review into sections of a suitable length – this allows trends to be identified more easily.

Writing

  • Be concise and only include relevant information that highlights the key findings (readers can always find further details in the referenced articles).
  • Be critical, highlighting where good advances have been made, and also areas that have been overlooked.
  • Once you have the core review section written, take a step back and look for common trends that emerge. Highlight key advances that have been made and areas where more focused research may lead to high impact. These are crucial to show where the field is heading, and any common pitfalls people have struggled with. (At this stage, you may want to broaden your scope and look at other relevant fields with common problems and where similar lessons could be learned).
  • Write an outlook that is positive and bold to encourage and inspire more research in the area.
  • Once you have your draft, put it aside for some time before final proof reading so that you can look at it again with a fresh mind.

Want further tips on writing a review article? Download our infographic. 


Angus Crake is a PhD student in the Chemical Engineering department at Imperial College London. His research, which he started in 2014, focuses on multifunctional nanomaterials for photocatalytic carbon dioxide conversion, supervised by Senior Lecturer Dr. Camille Petit. Angus received his MEng degree from the same department in 2014. He has reported his most recent findings in a research paper (App. Cat. B. 210, 131-140) and at conferences such as the Gordon Research Conference on CCUS (2017), AiChE Annual Conference (2016), and the Faraday Discussion on CCS (2016). Twitter: @AngusCrake, @Petit_Group