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Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review
A literature review or narrative review is a type of review article. A literature review is a scholarly paper that presents the current knowledge including substantive findings as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic. Literature reviews are secondary sources and do not report new or original experimental work. Most often associated with academic-oriented literature, such reviews are found in academic journals and are not to be confused with book reviews , which may also appear in the same publication. Literature reviews are a basis for research in nearly every academic field. A narrow-scope literature review may be included as part of a peer-reviewed journal article presenting new research, serving to situate the current study within the body of the relevant literature and to provide context for the reader. In such a case, the review usually precedes the methodology and results sections of the work.
How to write a literature review
The scientific format may seem confusing for the beginning science writer due to its rigid structure which is so different from writing in the humanities. One reason for using this format is that it is a means of efficiently communicating scientific findings to the broad community of scientists in a uniform manner. Another reason, perhaps more important than the first, is that this format allows the paper to be read at several different levels. For example, many people skim Titles to find out what information is available on a subject.
When I undertook the task of writing a scientific literature review article last year, I had hoped that a Google search would reveal a handful of how-to pages thoughtfully created by veterans of this particular writing process. I found nothing of the sort, so I plowed ahead on my own, inventing techniques for myself. I was running a protein over a nickel column on a Sunday evening in February when my adviser approached me about co-authoring a review article for Annual Review of Biochemistry. That was fine with me — as a fifth-year graduate student, I had learned to cope with, and even prefer, extreme independence.