How do you approach writing a scientific literature review? What do you need to consider before you start writing?
Who better to advise than Syed Ghazi Sarwat, winner of the Materials Science & Technology Literature Review Prize for his article ‘Materials science and engineering of phase change random access memory’. Taylor & Francis offers hundreds of prizes for researchers, collaborating with journals, institutions, and societies to provide support and recognition.
Read on to see Ghazi’s top researcher to researcher tips.
Take the reader on a journey
In my experience, the key to a good literature review is its ability to tell a story. It must introduce a main topic, and then take the reader on a journey, coherently describing the concept from rudiments all the way up to sophisticated advances. A review article might be considered as lecture notes compiled into one big file – but at the same time, the author must never take the reader for granted and needs to start with the basics, gradually unravelling the intricacies.
Write an article that would have been useful for you when you first encountered the topic
Before starting any piece of scientific writing, I carry-out thorough introspection. I consider the difficulties and knowledge gaps I faced when I was first introduced to the topic. I then think of myself as the reader and write in a way that meets the curiosity I had.
Write with confidence
Writing a literature review, you become an ambassador for the subject, an author owning the story. You no longer summarize the literature, but instead provide reasoning like an expert in the subject, and this is crucial.