1. Check the journal’s aims and scope
Make sure you have read the aims and scope for the journal you are submitting to and follow them closely. Different journals accept different types of articles and not all will accept review articles, so it’s important to check this before you start writing.
2. Define your scope
Define the scope of your review article and the research question you’ll be answering, making sure your article contributes something new to the field.
As award-winning author Angus Crake told us, you’ll also need to “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.”
3. Finding sources to evaluate
When finding sources to evaluate, Angus Crake says it’s critical that you “use multiple search engines/databases so you don’t miss any important ones.”
For finding studies for a systematic review in medical sciences, read advice from NCBI.
4. Writing your title, abstract and keywords
Spend time writing an effective title, abstract and keywords. This will help maximize the visibility of your article online, making sure the right readers find your research. Your title and abstract should be clear, concise, accurate, and informative.
For more information and guidance on getting these right, read our guide to writing a good abstract and title and our researcher’s guide to search engine optimization.
5. Introduce the topic
Does a literature review need an introduction? Yes, always start with an overview of the topic and give some context, explaining why a review of the topic is necessary. Gather research to inform your introduction and make it broad enough to reach out to a large audience of non-specialists. This will help maximize its wider relevance and impact.
Don’t make your introduction too long. Divide the review into sections of a suitable length to allow key points to be identified more easily.
6. Include critical discussion
Make sure you present a critical discussion, not just a descriptive summary of the topic. If there is contradictory research in your area of focus, make sure to include an element of debate and present both sides of the argument. You can also use your review paper to resolve conflict between contradictory studies.
“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.”
Angus Crake, researcher
7. Sum it up
As part of your conclusion, include making suggestions for future research on the topic. Focus on the goal to communicate what you understood and what unknowns still remains.
8. Use a critical friend
Always perform a final spell and grammar check of your article before submission.
You may want to ask a critical friend or colleague to give their feedback before you submit. If English is not your first language, think about using a language-polishing service.
Find out more about how Taylor & Francis Editing Services can help improve your manuscript before you submit.